Kochi Metro bogged down by unseemly controversies

Kochi
27 Jun 2017

Trangenders' refusal to join duty, insensitive photo of a hearing impaired commuter on social media and a Congress protest journey spoiled the party for the Kochi Metro inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi less than a fortnight ago. Nine out of 21 transgenders employed by the Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL), an initiative hailed by Modi, for jobs ranging from handling the ticket counter to housekeeping work have declined to join work citing lack of shelter for them. However, "Kudumbasree Mission", which recruited and trained the transgenders, said the mission and the KMRL have taken certain measures to address their problem. Dilraj, an official appointed by Ernakulam District Kudumbasree Mission to head the facility management centre for providing services to Kochi Metro, said the transgender staff would be provided hostel facility at an affordable rate in Kakkanad here. He also said an offer of free transportation was made at a meeting with the transgenders, attended by authorities of KMRL and Kudumbasree Mission here yesterday. KMRL's initiative to gender justice by opening up employment opportunities to not only hundreds of women, but also the transgender community has invited wide attention. Inaugurating the Metro project on June 17, the Prime Minister had lauded it for providing employment for transgenders in its rail network. In another controversy, the Metro was confronted with the circulation of a photograph of a person who was seen lying down on a seat inside a coach, with a caption --"snake in Kochi Metro", a reference to a person in an inebriated state.
Public and politicians including Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan sharply reacted to the post that went viral on social media, including whatsapp, after it was found that the man was a speech and hearing impaired person. The person, identified as Eldo, was a "victim of public trial" by social media in the name of social responsibility, Vijayan had said. A top official of the Kochi Metro Rail Limited has offered a free pass for Rs 2000 to Eldho after the incident was equated with a 'social media trial' of a Delhi constable Salim, hailing from Kerala, in Delhi Metro two years ago. The video had showed Salim struggling to hold on to a pole while swinging back and forth inside the moving metro coach, that was inferred as he being drunk. However, it emerged later that Salim at that time was losing consciousness because of a major blockage in his brain. The Chief Minister had said both Eldo and Salim were victims of human rights violation and public trial. Eldo, a staff at the Headload Workers' Welfare Board, is reluctant to go to office after the episode, his relatives said. Associations of differently abled persons have demanded a probe against those who clicked his photo and circulated it on social media. Cyber police said they have not received any complaint so far in this regard. Meanwhile, another video indicating a leak in a Metro coach, circulated on social media, has been dismissed as false by KMRL. It clarified that the leakage was not due to rain, but water coming out of an air conditioner vent."The train is built with stainless steel material and there will not be any leakage due to rain... This is a minor issue," a KMRL spokesperson said. Earlier, on June 20 Congress workers led by former state chief minister Oommen Chandy had undertaken a protest journey condemning non-invitation of the senior leader for the Metro inauguration. An internal probe by KMRL, ordered amid complaints of inconvenience caused to Metro commuters by the Congress stir, has found violation of the Metro Act by Congress leaders including Chandy, during whose regime the initiative for the project was taken. The KMRL has said those who had breached certain substantive provisions of the Metro Railways (Operations and Maintenance) Act, 2002 during the 'Janakeeya Yatra' would face legal action. Despite the controversies, Kochi Metro collected a record revenue last Sunday, the first weekend after the launch of the commercial operations. A KMRL official said the Kochi Metro which experienced rush of joyriders collected a record Rs 30.91 lakh on June 25.(PTI)