Mumbai Police to classify Elphinstone Road stampede as accident, says incident caused by rumours
The decision resonated with a report filed by the Western Railway committee in October 2017. The committee had absolved the railway authorities stating that no one was responsible for the Elphinstone bridge stampede.
Nearly a year after 23 people died due to the stampede that occurred on the narrow bridge that connects Elphinstone Road Railway Station with Parel Railway Station of Mumbai suburban rail network, the Mumbai Police is reportedly set to classify the incident as a case of an accident and close the investigation in the case.
“The stampede was caused as a result of rumours being spread among trapped passengers on the station staircase… the incident will be closed as an Accidental Death Report,” Joint Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Deven Bharti told The Indian Express.
The decision resonated with the report filed by the Western Railway committee in October 2017 about the incident which took place on 29 September 2017. The committee had absolved the railway authorities stating that no one was responsible for the incident.
"The committee found that the cause of the incident were rumours and rain. The confusion between 'phool' and 'pul' resulted in the chaos. No one was responsible for it," Western Railway chief public relations officer Ravinder Bhakar had said.
"The committee concluded that the tragedy occurred due to a downpour and accumulation of commuters on the overbridge and the staircase around 10 am on the fateful day," the WR Chief Safety Officer (CSO), observed in his report.
"Many people stranded on the bridge were unable to move due to heavy rain, even as other commuters were stepping out of trains and trying to climb the bridge," Bhakar had said.
According to him, the inquiry team had also examined the video footage of the incident recorded by the people.
The probe committee had also recommended certain short- and long-term measures for Mumbai suburban stations, including installation of additional CCTVs at stations and in trains, removal of all encroachments on bridges and foot overbridges and in railway stations' vicinity, among others.
One of the survivors had earlier told the RPF that it was a flower vendor's 'phool gir gaya' (flowers have fallen) cry which was misinterpreted by the commuters as 'pul gir gaya' (the bridge has collapsed).
Acknowledging the lack of trained staff to handle difficult situations like the 29 September incident, Bhakar had said, "The survivors who spoke to us said that the rumour was created all of a sudden. The people were unprepared for the rains. In seven to eight minutes, this rumour turned the situation into a stampede."
Hours after the tragedy, the Western Railway had released a statement saying that the rains were "unprecedented" and that commuters at the station "were caught unaware". Western Railway maintained its stand in the recent report as well saying, railway commuters, 'unprepared for the rains', gathered on the Elphinstone-Parel foot overbridge, using the bridge's roof to shelter themselves from the sudden rain.
The incident had prompted Railway Minister Piyush Goyal to order a high-level inquiry. He had also assured to widen foot-over bridges across the suburban railway system.
Five months after the incident, on February 2018 a new Foot Over Bridge (FOB) constructed by the Indian Army was thrown open to the public. The new Elphinstone Road FOB, spanning over the Central and Western Railway tracks, connects Central Railway's Parel station on the east side and Phoolwali lane outside the Elphinstone Road station on the west side.
The Railways had offered Rs 5 lakh each to the families of the 23 victims. In March 2018, the Railway Claims Tribunal in Mumbai granted compensation of Rs 8 lakh each to the relatives of 17 deceased while 19 injured were compensated as per the disability they had sustained.
With inputs from agencies
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