The Elphinstone Road station stampede incident which claimed 22 lives is a wake-up call for the railways to get their act together and overhaul rail infrastructure. The Modi government which is planning to launch bullet trains in India needs to first improve railway amenities instead of blindly emulating developed nations. India already lags far behind China which has made massive investments to boost its railway network. The bureaucratic mode of functioning further delays crucial decision making process as several rail projects are stalled for lack of clearances.
Railway accidents continue to occur as ministers pay a visit to the accident spot, announce compensation for victims and later forget about the incident. They hold railway officials responsible for the accidents and try to shun their responsibility. Politicians were in a hurry to rename Elphinstone Road railway station to Prabhadevi but they didn’t pay any attention to develop the station’s infrastructure which is in dire straits. Often commuters have complained about lack of enough space at Elphinstone station but they have never bothered to improve it. Were they waiting for a disaster to occur and who will take responsibility for this mishap?
More than 30 people have been injured in the incident. Those injured have been rushed to KEM hospital. Often the narrow foot-overbridge gets overcrowded during morning and evening peak hours as commuters have to jostle for space and it takes more than 30 minutes for them to reach to the other side of the station.
Teesta Setalvad, social activist said, “Commuters had already complained about the congested overhead bridge to railway authorities but they didn’t pay any heed towards it. If such type of accidents occurs then centre and state will have to be made accountable. The government is trying to sabotage the Indian railways so that they can handover it’s functioning to overseas companies. They must focus on strengthening railways, improve stations and construct overhead bridges instead of running bullet trains.”
G.R. Khairnar, former deputy municipal commissioner said, “The government is not paying any attention towards the functioning of Indian railways. They have failed to meet the expectations of the people. Common man relies on railways for reaching their destination. At a time when farmers are committing suicides government is more bothered about launching bullet trains.”
Rajesh Gamre, make-up artist said, “I have to rely on suburban trains for reaching several areas of the city. I am disabled and the government is overlooking the problems faced by women and disabled commuters. Many times people board the handicapped compartments. What is the point in starting bullet trains when government has failed to provide basic amenities like lifts for handicapped commuters at railway stations and other public places? I had watched several televisions shows where anchors provide entertainment to viewers. In the same way Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a good anchor and attracts viewers.”
Sudharshan Mohite, a social activist said, “Indian railways are facing severe problems today. I have to travel from Virar to south Mumbai daily for work. The railways must first overhaul tracks, signals, provide better coaches and other amenities for passengers instead of starting bullet trains. Politicians only pass the buck against each other and no development is happening in the country. Accident victims will have to run from pillar to post for claiming compensation.”