Sunday, September 26, 2021
HomeEditorialPlug shortfalls of Indian Railways before bringing Bullet train

Plug shortfalls of Indian Railways before bringing Bullet train

We have such creaking railway infrastructure; most are not upgraded in last 50 years. Same number of lines and platforms carry longer and more frequent trains, passenger numbers have gone up tremendously, but not much thought has being given towards improving infrastructure. RIP all the innocent commuters who died in the mishap. There are many such tragedies waiting to happen in the local trains’ network in Mumbai. Stations are antiquated and poorly maintained. Stairs are made of granite —which turns dangerous and slippery when it’s wet and most hazardous during rainy season. People die everyday keeping the spirit of dead Mumbaikar. Terror attacks, monsoon tragedies, road accidents, or train accidents, they grieve and next day they are back to basics. Mumbaikars have become immune and prepared to die with which every situation they are put in. It seems they’ve lost their voice, their stand and they have become living zombies.

Seven million commuters use the Mumbai local train network every day. The Sea Link was built at the cost of rupees 16 billion ($250 million) and carries mostly cars and taxis. If even a part of this money had been spent on improving the railway system, majority of the city’s commuters’ would have been travelling safer today. As a nation we get our priorities horribly wrong. Yet we don’t mind. Twenty-two were killed and over 30 seriously injured in a rush-hour stampede in Mumbai, when a crowd tried to leave a narrow railway bridge connecting two stations after heavy rain.

My heart bleeds for everyone who has been affected. Modiji, I am from Mumbai, I don’t need a bullet train here, please spend the money to upgrade the existing facilities across the country so we can prevent such uncalled tragedies in future. Human lives are being treated worse than any creature. Railways and basic transport amenities are being shamelessly been neglected with no infrastructure development. Fadnavis and company should be made to travel in these trains to feel the pain of taxpayers. Government should wake up and realise the immediate and essential requirement of general public. Forget Bullet train; provide minimum facilities and safety requirements.

I am human, it’s not easy for me to see heart-wrenching crush of bodies on the bridge, straining against the railing. Screams were heard from those trying to escape the weight of the bodies and some were seen jumping off the bridge. The incident took place hours before Railway Minister Piyush Goyal arrived in the city to launch new services. This new Railway Minister, never ever bothered to take updates on local trains of Mumbai and its worst condition. He never visited the metropolis to upgrade himself on inconveniences caused to lack of groundwork. The day he was sworn in as Railway Minister, he has witnessed huge water logs in Mumbai local train tracks, but neither state government nor central government ever got concerned to correct the loopholes and lacunas. Visuals after the incident showed people on the ground, many not moving at all, and attempts to revive them. Passengers and local residents were seen carrying bodies down the bridge. Footwears were scattered next to the bridge and rescuers cleared out more from the stairs. Angry commuters and residents said the bridge is too old and narrow and not strong enough to take the busy sector. “It was a disaster waiting to happen,” remarked a local resident, saying that the bridge has been overcrowded for years and there have been multiple demands for more railway bridges for the area.

The two stations are used by much of Mumbai’s local train commuters, as there are large numbers of offices located in these areas. Mumbaikars’ real issues and requirements were not meet by the government. Tweets, Photoshop, Mann Ki Baat, Facebook pages, Propaganda, Self boasting and Selfies are not going to help the aam admi. This government has increased the rail fare, promised safety but did not deliver any promises. Indian railways have become the most dangerous mode of transportation under this govt. They are not interested in the safety and well being of the common man.

Since 2012, six of every 10-rail accidents in India have happened because of negligence of railway staff. In the year to March 31, 2017, 66 of 104 consequential rail accidents were attributed to the failure of railway staffs according to Indian Railways data. And in the three months to June 30, eight of 11 accidents were attributed to the failure of railway staffs. Since 1960, Indian Railways has seen growth in infrastructure, expenditure, ridership and freight, but it has been steadfast in terms of accidents: roughly one every three days. Indian Railways claims safety is one of its main focuses, and while that may be the case, there are several worrying gaps that point to action not matching intent. For one, there’s the 16 per cent shortage in safety staff. As of April 1, the total number of vacancies in safety staffs was around 124,201 and this number has been growing steadily over the decades.

When it comes to Mumbai locals, then the figures are very freighting: 3,304 deaths in 2015. Nine people die on the Mumbai local train tracks every day. The causes for deaths include accidents, suicides and casualties. An average of 31 per cent victims remain “untraced” and unidentified. The Mumbai suburban railway network is spread across four major routes — western, central, harbour and trans-harbour, and carries more than 7.5 million passengers every day. A local train in Mumbai has the capacity to carry 1,320 people. However, during peak hours it carries no less than 4,800 people, which means 16 people jostling for space in 1 square meter of area. Overcapacity is also the reason behind the deaths due to falling off trains. It’s a common sight during peak hours to see men and women hanging insecurely out of a packed compartment, holding on to one pole placed at its gate. The number of deaths due to falling off overcrowded trains has shot up sharply. Majority of ‘other’ deaths are caused by suffocation and asphyxiation but these deaths go unreported.

Mumbaikars are biting the bullet everyday; one must say MUMBAI’s Undying spirit…. of those who have died.

 (Any suggestions, comments or dispute with regards to this article send us on [email protected])

Dr Vaidehi Taman
Dr Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond The News (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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