LAHORE - Strong protest demonstrations against the top management of the Pakistan Railways has become order of the day at various junctions as the Railways has started fleecing its passengers in the name of air-conditioned service. Ironically, the railways employees deliberately switch off air-conditioning plants during the journey to save diesel and to sell it in the open market to mint money. This continuous practice by the railways employees is multiplying the miseries of the passengers who are left with no other option but to stop the train and start protests against the railways administration, demanding the authorities to return their tickets. Sources in the Railways said that at least 50 per cent passengers have stopped traveling in the air-conditioning compartment due to the dysfunctional service and rude attitude of the railways officials. The railways passengers alleged that the railways employees are minting money in connivance with their senior officials as they switch off the air-conditioners to save fuel to sell it in the open market. Why this air-conditioned compartment is looking so deserted was my question when I started my journey from Lahore to Multan with my family on Musa Pak (118 DN) train a couple of days ago. My fellow passengers told me that it would reveal itself within a course of time, Syed Abid Bukhari who traveled from Lahore to Multan on railways air-conditioned compartment told this scribe here on Monday. When the train reached near Raiwind Railway Station, all ceiling fans and air-condition plants were switched off. However, just after 20 minutes the power restored and we again felt a sigh of relief. But, there was again power shutdown when we just reached Kot Radha Kishan Railway Station, he said adding, this time it took more than half an hour to restore power and air-conditioned plant. The frequent power outages were in fact the answers to my question that why the compartment was presenting a deserted look, he added. The frequent power breakdowns which continued throughout the journey annoyed passengers, another victim said. He further said that the frequent power breakdowns have become a routine matter for those who travel regularly on passenger trains. The staff of the respective trains shuts down power generating plant installed in all express trains, to save diesel not for the sake of department but for themselves, a worker at Lahore Railways Station commented requesting his name not be mentioned, when contacted. They used to keep switch on air-conditioned plant and ceiling fans from where the journey starts but within half an hour, they are supposed to switch it off on the pretext of technical fault, he maintained. The concerned staff is busy in removing the fault, the railways employees inform the passengers if any one tries to find out the reason behind the power breakdown. He further revealed that the railway officials themselves switch off the power plant once for all after covering some distance, asking the passengers that the fault could not be removed during the journey. The power-generating plant consumes sufficient quantity of diesel. Therefore, the officials collect the same quantity and sell it in open market in connivance with their colleagues to mint money, a source at the railways station informed, conditioning anonymity. This practice is ultimately annoying commuters as they prefer to travel by road instead of putting themselves at the mercy of railways officials, he added. It is important to mention here that in this way the Railways employees are following the footsteps of the Punjab Road Transport Board (PRTB), whose employees once used to make gross embezzlement in selling tickets to commuters and ultimately they had not only deprived the citizens of public transport but also lost their own jobs as the government finished the chapter of PRTB once for all owing to similar complaints. On last Thursday night, sources said, commuters of Shalimar Express (28 DN) train were left with no other option but to stop the train at Multan Railway Station to stage strong protests after the air-conditioning plant was switched off. They demanded the railways officials to return their fair money so that they could travel by road. Though the Railways Police intervened harshly but commuters were of the view that they would not let the train move unless their money is paid back to them. However, after five hours of delay amid protests, the train could set off towards its destination. On the same night, angry passengers stopped another train (from Karachi to Lahore) at Sahiwal Railway Station as its air-conditioning plants were switched off throughout the journey. However, Railways police managed to disperse the passengers and the train left for Lahore after one hour. Not enough, apart from the air-conditioning plant of the Musa Pak (117 UP) train all the lights and ceiling fans were also switched off, shortly after it left Multan railways station for Lahore on Sunday, Syed Mohammad Tahir another passenger said. The passengers were left with no other option but to activate the lights of their cellular phones during complete darkness after the train reached Lahore railway station in the wee hours of Sunday, he maintained.