Riding dangerously on Mumbai locals..

Nice article by Bhanuj Kappal:

in recent years, as the 164-year-old railway system struggles to ferry over 75 lakh passengers a day, the adjective that comes up more often is ‘deadly’. According to statistics obtained by rail activist Samir Zaveri under the Right to Information Act, 3,202 people died on the railway tracks of Mumbai in 2016. That averages out to almost nine deaths a day. Another 3,363 were injured. These figures are not statistical outliers, but representative of a long-term trend. The death count for 2015 was higher at 3,304. And according to figures on shodh.gov.in, 1,618 accidental deaths have been recorded so far this year. That makes the MSR one of the deadliest public rail transit systems in the world.

For years, this damning mortality rate was ignored by the railway authorities and the State government. The press followed suit, relegating statistics about accidental deaths to blurbs on the back pages. And Mumbai’s long-suffering commuters, used to risking life and limb every day on the way to work, became inured to the idea of daily commute as a life-or-death lottery. They even took perverse pride in it, treating a peak-hour ride on the insanely overcrowded Churchgate to Virar fast as a rite of passage towards becoming a real ‘Mumbaikar’. It took the death of 21-year-old Bhavesh Nakate, who was crushed under a train after slipping from its footboard, in November 2015, to wake everyone up. Nakate’s death was similar to hundreds of others that occur every year, but with one vital difference. A fellow commuter had captured his fall on his phone camera. And the video went viral.

A few weeks later, hearing a number of public interest litigations (PILs) on commuter safety and security, a Bombay High Court bench of Justices Naresh Patil and SB Shukre, came down heavily on the State government and the Indian Railways. “[In] no other country would so many deaths not be taken seriously, in India we just sit on the sidelines and watch on,” they observed, asking the authorities to list all measures taken towards addressing the issues of overcrowding and the rising accidents on local trains. “People are dying on the trains and the tracks every day and the authorities cannot continue to keep their eyes shut,” they added. “If you act now and succeed in saving even just one such life, your actions will make a large difference.”

“If this was happening in the US or UK, these officials would be in jail and the Railways would have to pay crores in compensation every day,” says Zaveri, who filed one of those PILs on commuter safety. Having lost both his legs in a railway accident in 1989, Zaveri is now committed to helping other victims. “But this is a country of poor people, so their lives have no value.”

Emphasis is mine. Strong words indeed. Cost of life in India..


“The root cause of the problem is overcrowding,” says veteran transport journalist Rajendra B Aklekar, who has written extensively on the Indian Railways, including Halt Station India, a book on its history. “When Mumbai got saturated we built townships in Kalyan, Dombivali, Thane. We kept on building new townships, but never built a sustainable transport system connecting those townships with Mumbai. So when those people wake up in the morning, they go to the same old stations. That leads to crowding, that leads to everything.”



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