On March 29, 2017, the very unique C3 A/C Coach on the Panchavati Express observed its 10th anniversary. More than a thousand passengers who regularly travel on this superfast train (that runs between Mumbai and Manmad in Nashik district) participated enthusiastically in the celebrations, with 90 passengers making the anniversary trip. The elated railway officials also pitched in by treating the passengers to chocolate cake.
The C3 A/C coach, or the ‘Adarsh’ coach as it has been aptly name, allows entry only to monthly season ticket (MST) holders. What makes it unique is the fact that all of its passengers follow a voluntary code of conduct that has ensured it a place in the Limca Book of Records for being the first of its kind.
Other than ensuring strict prohibition on consumption of liquor, chewing tobacco and playing cards, the passengers of Adarsh Coach also adhere to cleanliness guidelines, switch off lights during daytime, change seat covers and curtains, conduct regular pest control and take care of small maintenance needs!
The concept of Adarsh Coach was started as an experiment by Bipin Gandhi, a Nashik resident who had been travelling daily by the train since 1981. Bipin had heard people talking about how comfortable and pleasing air travel was and decided to do something to change the situation on Indian trains.
In 2001, Bipin founded his NGO, Rail Parishad, and spent the next few years discussing the concept of an Adarsh coach with like-minded individuals. In 2007, a delegation of 20 members of Rail Parishad met the officials of the Indian Railways and succeeded in getting a special coach allotted on the Panchavati Express.
On March 29, 2007, the Adarsh Coach initiative was started with complete support from the Indian Railways.
The first step taken by the Rail Parishad team was to divide the three-and-a-half-hour journey into four sessions, with each session being dedicated to a different activity.
The first session between Nashik and Igatpuri stations (7am to 8am) was reserved for reading newspapers and answering personal calls. The next slot between Igatpuri and Kasara (8 am to 8.30 am) was breakfast time. During the next 10-minute segment between Kasara and Kalyan, the passengers were expected to remain silent and meditate while the last section of the journey from Kalyan to Dadar was used for phone calls and conversations.
This routine is still followed by the daily passengers of Adarsh Coach. However, the change did not come easily, with many people initially resisting and opposing the implementation of the voluntary code of conduct.
However, the Rail Parishad team persevered and after a while, their consistent efforts began paying off when all the passengers started following the guidelines.
Bipin Gandhi in Adarsh Coach
Today, with the help of voluntary contributions from regular passengers, ‘Adarsh Coach’ also maintains a well-equipped first-aid box, a lost-and-found box and a diary containing details of all its commuters (who get free services assisting them not just with buying their monthly season tickets but also with accident insurance cover).
Other than this systematic approach, the coach even has a ‘civic director’, Priya Tuljapurkar (a television actress), who ensures that the commuters abide by the rules of the coach and have a comfortable, chaos-free journey!
Other than keeping the train clean and comfortable for the passengers, the members of Rail Parishad have joined hands with the commuters to form an informal support system that enriches the life of every passenger. Birthdays, anniversaries and even wedding receptions for the newly married are hosted on the Adarsh Coach.
In fact, in 2013, regular passengers and Nashik residents, Shyam and Sarika Jadhav got married on the Adarsh Coach, with a pandit performing the rituals and nearly 110 guests attending the ceremony. According to the Limca Book of Records, this was the first-ever wedding ceremony on a train coach in India!
Adarsh Coach has chugged into the Limca Book of Records on two other occasions – in 2012 for its exemplary cleanliness and in 2015, when its passengers wrote 100 letters to the Indian Railways and got acknowledged for each letter. Many of the suggestions given in these letters have been implemented by the railway department and many more are in the pipeline.
On the occasion of Adarsh Coach’s 10th anniversary, Rail Parishad gave certificates of loyalty to 50 passengers who have been members for all the ten years.
The NGO is now collaborating with more passengers and various departments of the railways to ensure that other coaches too are kept clean and looked after. Plans to spruce up the ill-maintained Igatpuri station as well as introducing an Adarsh Coach on the Mumbai-Pune Deccan Express are also in the pipeline.
Contact Rail Parishad here.