The stampede at the Elphinstone Road station bridge makes one wonder if there is any value for human life in the country. In any other country, the rail minister and the concerned officers would immediately be taken to task for such a horrendous state of affairs.
Let me cite a statistic to show exactly how dire the situation is. In the Mumbai suburban system, one 12-coach local train has the capacity to carry 1,172 people. But the Railways itself has said that in peak hours, around 6,000 people travel in one train on an average. In such a situation, it is no surprise that a large number of deaths take place on the suburban system.
In such a situation, inadequate infrastructure such as the narrow bridge at Elphinstone Road makes matters worse. Naturally, when it rains, people rush towards the bridge to shelter themselves.
This is not the only station in Mumbai where such a situation exists. Several other stations — like Dadar and Kurla — face massive overcrowding at peak hours. If we don't take corrective measures at the earliest, we could be paving the way for another tragedy.
There are 120 stations in Mumbai and a similar situation prevails on many of them. Yet, instead of improving basic infrastructure in the railways, the railway minster is more concerned with introducing a bullet train.
Some simple measures can help ease overcrowding, at least to some extent. For instance, on extremely congested railway bridges, why do we need canteens or food stalls? The stalls take up a lot of space and cause inconvenience to most of the passengers. There are several food outlets outside the station which people can use.
There is an urgent need to increase the frequency of trains to accommodate the ever-increasing number of passengers. However, this is not possible for several reasons. For instance, the Railways conduct welding work over and over again on the tracks when rail fractures take place. Wherever such welding work has been done, trains have to limit their speed to about 50 kilometres per hour as the tracks are structurally weak. Naturally, because of this, it is not possible to increase the number of trains on the network. All of these factors need to be addressed.
It is the same story over and over again. The authorities wake up only when a tragedy strikes and a large number of people die. This situation must change, and the authorities must take proactive measures to prevent such accidents from taking place in the first place.
As told to Neerad Pandharipande
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Updated Date: Sep 29, 2017 18:42:51 IST