The Elphinstone Road stampede tragedy has opened up a Pandora’s Box about the how India railways are in dire straits. Even though commuters had complained about the need for constructing a new footoverbridge at the station the railways turned a blind eye towards it. Many people had forwarded letters to the railway about this issue but they failed to get any response. Like Elphinstone there are many other railway stations in south Mumbai like Currey Road, Chinchpokli, Sandhurst Road, Lower Parel, Mahalaxmi and Mumbai Central station which needs urgent repairs. However, politicians are busy renaming stations but have failed to upgrade infrastructure.
Railway accidents on Mumbai local are increasing day by day and the Elphinstone Road mishap is most gruesome one. The narrow foot over bridge is the cause for the stampede. Sudden rain forced many commuters take shelter over the bridge and the resultant stampede happened thereafter led to the loss of several lives and injury to commuters. No repair work has been undertaken ever since the Britishers built the foot overbridge at the station. On an average, 500 persons pass through this bridge every hour. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis visited KEM hospital and announced that an audit of several railway foot overbridges will be conducted. He also has announced compensation for the deceased persons however it won’t provide much relief to victims.
Whenever citizens file complaint with railways about poor infrastructure of stations the organisation has shun its responsibility by citing lack of funds for development. Political parties often indulge in blame game and do nothing to improve the conditions of railways. Can they be able to compensate for the loss of lives?
Since leaders do not travel by the local trains, so they just hear and ignore such incidents which are serious in nature. Majority of the people commute by train every day to reach their offices. Elphinstone and Lower Parel house many big corporates. Now what we need is action and not explanation. Just like the Seawood station was given facelift by a corporate firm such initiative should be taken by other firms for the benefit of people.
In order to avoid such perils, the Railways and the Government must take quick action in reconstructing old bridges or as the case may be, else they will have to face the public who are already angry and would not hesitate to take action against corrupt politicians and officers. Instead of dreaming about launching bullet trains the Modi government should first improve the functioning of railways.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)