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Mango vendors swamping Tirupati-bound trains

Raja Simhan T E


Vendors carrying mango baskets occupying reserved compartments in the Tirupati-Chennai Sapthagiri Express.

CHENNAI, June 9

IT was a frustrating three-hour train journey for Ms Malyatha and her family, returning to Chennai from Tirupati last week, as a large number of mango vendors boarded the reserved compartment in Puttur in Andhra Pradesh, a major mango centre, and troubled passengers.

"The passengers having reservation tickets had to fight for space from the vendors, who had large baskets filled with mangoes, and occupied the entire reserved compartment," she said.

Such harassment on the Chennai-Tirupati train is a daily affair during the mango season between April and July every year. Every morning, hundreds of mango vendors, largely women, from places such as Tiruvallur, Tiruttani and Arakkonam in Tamil Nadu board the Tirupati bound Saptagiri Express with empty baskets and alight at Puttur in Andhra Pradesh to purchase mangoes. Puttur is also famous for its bone setters, whose ability to set right any type of fracture with the help of herbs and indigenous plaster, is renowned throughout the south.

In the return direction, the vendors board the evening Chennai-bound Tirupati express at Puttur and get down at various places in Tamil Nadu.

Says Ms Ponamma, 65, a mango vendor, "during the mango season, I travel every day between Arakkonam and Puttur to buy malgova mangoes from Puttur and sell them in Tamil Nadu. There are hundreds of such vendors in the Tamil Nadu-Andhra Pradesh border who depend only upon the Chennai-Tirupati express during the season".

However, for Mr Srinath, a businessmen travelling thrice a week between Chennai and Tirupati, it has been a frustrating time in the last three months travelling along with the mango vendors.

"The whole compartment gets occupied with a large number of mango vendors, who do not care for the passengers. There is often fight inside the compartment between the passengers and the vendors. Ticket collectors and inspectors turn a deaf ear to our complaints," he says.

When asked how can they board the reserved compartments, Ms Ponamma says, "we do not have a choice as there are no exclusive carriage compartments".

Ms Ponamma buys about 100 mangoes, each about Rs 3 from the wholesale market in Puttur, and sells them between Rs 5 and Rs 10 (depending up on the demand) each in the local market.

A railway official in Arakkonam said, they were helpless and could not prevent such a large number of vendors boarding the reserved compartments.

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