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South Eastern Railway (SCR) will run 348 long distance special trains, including premium special trains, from Howrah, Santragachi, Kharagpur, Ranchi and Hatia to different destinations such as Yesvantpur (Bangalore), Chennai, Mumbai, Ernakulam (Kerala), Mysore, Puri, Secunderabad, Anand Vihar (Delhi), Dumka and New Jalpaiguri. Moreover, seven night suburban (local) specials will also be run daily (from September 29 to October 4) during Durga Puja period. It’s been a month since Dipu Sharma died, after being pushed out of what has become one of the most contested train services in West Bengal — the women’s-only Matribhoomi Specials. Sharma had boarded the Howrah-Bandel local at Uttarpara, and was allegedly thrown out of it before it reached the next station. It’s a Thursday evening, and there is barely place to breathe on most of the platforms at Sealdah — one of Kolkata’s two main stations, along with Howrah. Ratna works in the administrative department of a hospital, Shubhashree says she is employed with a “visa office”. That changed in 2010 when Eastern Railway, after a push by then railways minister Mamata Banerjee, started the Matribhoomi Specials — local trains meant exclusively for women in the state. Five years later, the tussle between men, who struggle on crowded trains, and women, whose special trains run with a distressing number of empty seats, is yet to end.
While some local papers reported that a group of angry women passengers threw Dipu Sharma off — sparking off the protests by men — others say Sharma was killed while trying to jump off a running train. The Railway version is that Sharma got onto a ladies compartment, realised his mistake and tried to get off even as the train had started moving.
On August 14 this year, following another round of protests by men, the Railways had issued a notification saying that for the “convenience of commuters”, it had been decided that male passengers would be permitted on coaches earmarked for them on the Matribhoomi Specials.

Mamata herself intervened with Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, and within a week, the male coaches were withdrawn. Bidisha Chatterjee, who stays in Konnagar in Hooghly district and works at a media house in central Kolkata, says the matter has to be seen from the perspective of women. She adds that her own husband too, when he travels with her, either takes a separate train or gets into male coaches still to be found on some Matribhoomis. It’s 5.35 pm, and their train, in Kolkata’s landmark olive green colours, is about to leave. Just before the train pulls away, a stray man gets onto the coach, looks around to find only women, and hastily gets off. You are responsible for independently confirming the validity of information through other sources.This website is highly addictive, and may end up consuming a lot of your time. Hundreds stand jostling in front of overhead boards announcing the arrival of locals and the platforms they will leave from. She maintains she wasn’t even in the compartment where the incident took place,” says Eastern Railways Chief PRO R N Mahapatra.
The men were to have the middle six coaches on a 12-car train, middle four on a 10-car train, and middle three on a nine-car train. Male passengers complained that these trains were going empty while the general trains were full,” says Mahapatra. Train services on Sealdah’s main line were disrupted on the morning of August 17, with 150 women sitting on dharna at Khardah station.

Sometimes, the only option for her after work is the last local that leaves Howrah, at 11 pm.
She packs off her six-year-old daughter to school every morning before catching the 9.38 am local. After the women’s protest was called off, men passengers took to the same rail tracks demanding that the male coaches be retained. In the evening, both women wind up work and get to Sealdah to be able to catch the train together for home. As far as we are concerned, whenever a man gets onto a Matribhoomi, the women passengers tell him to get off and he complies,” says Ratna. 34602, the Matribhoomi Special to Baruipur junction, pulls up, Shubashree Mukherjee, 59, and daughter Ratna, 36, are still talking. While there are general and ladies compartments in other locals, the unwritten rule is that men get onto the general compartments, and the women into the two ladies compartments per train.

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