If you are travelling in India, the fantastic scenery, the exotic atmosphere, and the sheer romance of travelling across the Indian continent by train may prompt you to think about taking a few selfies. But beware – you might end up with more than just a collection of memorable moments, because India has some very strict regulations about what rail passengers can, and can’t do during a train journey.
Restrictions for Rail Travellers
In some parts of India, such as Gujarat, you are likely to be prosecuted for taking selfies whilst on board a train. And it looks as if this law will soon be extended to apply in other parts of the rail network too. And it’s not just photos. Playing cards has also been identified as a major source of nuisance to other travellers. So make sure you do NOT play blackjack, poker or any other card games on the trains in India.
But at least it’s OK to enjoy music, isn’t it? Well, maybe not. It has been reported that the Central and Western Railways, for instance, have made 1,035 arrests over the last five years. Some of these offences have involved playing cards on a train, but others have been for the singing of ‘qawalis’ (group songs) and ‘bhajans’ (devotional songs). So far, such instances have usually attracted heavy fines, but Indian Railways have signalled that because such activities are becoming a major problem, they are seeking to have bad behaviour punishable by stricter penalties, or even a jail term.
Authorities are Getting Tough
As well as publicising their crackdown under existing laws, the rail authorities are looking to amend present legislation to help them deal with the problem. So as part of a longer-term solution, a new proposal is about to be submitted to India’s Home Ministry, who will be asked to approve tighter legislation and more stringent penalties.
According to rail officials, both the GRP (government rail police) and the RPF (railway police force) will now be ordered to officially report anyone who attempts to take selfies on platforms near a train, actually on the railway tracks, or in the general area of the rail compartment exits. A rail spokesperson made it clear that officers will now take the view that these actions are not only likely to endanger the lives of the individuals who commit these offences, but they can also threaten the lives of other rail users.
One RPF officer even went so far as to say that, although offenders will be offered anonymity, the authorities may even decide in some cases that those who fail to observe the rules could be charged with attempting to commit suicide.
Sing and Play Loud Music – You Might go to Jail
The Indian Central Railways (CR) have equally strict expectations about passenger behaviour. For all those who may have got more than a little mad about passengers with smartphones churning out tinny, monophonic music, or wild, wandering minstrels banging out a stream of bhajans complete with brass bells and cymbals, there is some heartening news: The CR railway authorities have made all such noisy musical pastimes illegal.
As a result of receiving countless complaints from rail travellers about unwanted loud music playing on both local- and long-distance trains, CR railways have opted to penalise anyone whose phone blares out music, or performers who break out the bhajans to the annoyance of their fellow passengers.
Peace-loving travellers have been made aware they can register a complaint just by sending a text message to the CR helpline number, or else by making a call to the GRP. Officials have said that, provided they are given details of the offence, they will take prompt action. So if you should happen to be thinking about subjecting your fellow travellers to unending versions of your favourite loud music, it’s very unlikely your actions will go unpunished. You can expect a spell in jail – which could even last up to six months – or you may be asked to pay a fine of up to Rs 500. And if you really annoyed those who were travelling along with you, there’s a chance you could be served both these penalties!
High-ranking officials of both CR and Western Railway have made it clear they see such behaviour as a ‘serious offence’ and will now consider it their duty to ‘punish guilty passengers’.