By Nayanika Tiwari, NMIMS School of Law.
Local trains form the most essential part of travel for millions. However, the train commuters in Mumbai have to face a lot of problems on a daily basis. This study attempts to understand two of these problems along with cases in detail.
Currently the Mumbai Suburban Railway is suffering from Super-Dense Crush Load, which basically means that trains are carrying more than their carrying capacity. Aggravating the situation further is the fact that, trains on an average are more than 4 minutes apart from each other and are usually late. This causes e people to rush to catch any available train leading to further overcrowding.
The problem of overcrowding is conducive for thieves and robbers to operate. They can wantonly engage in pickpocketing with very limited risk of being caught. The victims are therefore left with almost no recourse as it can get difficult to track the wrong doers.
Overcrowding also makes it difficult for effective ticket checking enabling passengers to dodge the law and travel without a ticket. In addition to being a loss of income for the government, the incentive of free travel further aggravates overcrowding. .
- The gap problem:
Here the “gap” refers to the distance between the footboard of the train and the platform.es if a person gets caught between the gap, it may result in serious injury or even death. This can be more of a menace for women as compared to men as they have the additional burden of managing unweildy clothes and accessories while embarking or disembarking from the train. Some measures have been taken to address this problem. For instance, the railway authorities placed slabs of granite on the platform, for the visually impaired to mark the spot where they need to stop the to embark on a train, thus reducing risk of falling into the gap. n. However, there have been protests that the slabs have been placed too near to the train which can lead to a risk of injury from the hordes of people getting in and out.
- Monika More Case –
Monika More a 16 year old student was about to catch a train from Ghatkopar station when she fell down a signal pit and a train ran over it. Monika lost both of her arms and after spending 6 traumatic months in a hospital, has been fitted with prosthetic arms. In such cases it is almost impossible to get any sort of compensation from the railways. It was only due to the fact that this case generated a lot of public outcry and media coverage, that Monika received an ex-gratia sum of Rs. 5 lakh from the then Railway Minister and Rs. 2 lakh from the Maharashtra government. Donations and support from local politicians and civic authorities also poured in as the case caught publicity. The Brihan Mumbai Municipal Corporation also agreed to pay for Monika’s functional limbs, which cost around Rs. 23 lakh.
- Sudaivi Meher case –
Sudaivi Meher was trying to catch the Mumbai – Surat flying Ranee express ,at night, when she slipped in the gap. . Fellow commuters got down and lifted her and took her to a hospital wherein she suffered a massive cardiac arrest and passed away. It’s unclear whether her family received any compensation from the authorities.
Although there are many issues which vary in the degree of their intensity which the daily train commuters have to face, the two main issues as discussed above would be the gap issue and the problem of overcrowding of trains. The only reason commuters get into an already crowded train is because everybody has to reach at their respective destination on time and if they miss one train, they will be even more late.
As seen s above these two problems are causing the maximum number of deaths per month on railway tracks. If not death, the victim is injured which is another traumatic event. Also in the absence of iron clad laws, the victims in such cases get almost no compensation.
Many a times the case goes unreported or if a case generates enough buzz then the authorities play the blame game, i.e. the authorities keep passing the buck or the blame from one person to another, neither ready to accept the blame and compensate the concerned victim.
The railway authorities should realize that the welfare of the 70.5 million commuters who travel every day via local trains is their responsibility and they should carry it out accordingly. It is time the concerned authorities buckle up, take charge and responsibility and work for the welfare of the people. If the authorities would manage the crowd properly, it would be able to lessen the amount of crimes to a great extent, which would then be helpful to the general citizen.
The suggestions can be divided into short term and long term. The short term suggestions include-
- Instead of 9 coach trains, start 15 coaches per train thus more people would be able to travel with less amount of people in each train.
- Eradicate the time lag. The trains should always run on time, albeit to the delay of one or two minutes but not more than that.
- There should be a qualified doctor, a general surgeon present at every station so that in case of an accident, there is a doctor on scene.
- There should be mandatory police presence on each station and each commuter must show his / her pass or train ticket before boarding the train.
- There should be a person who will regulate the number of people who can travel in a coach at a time. Basically one person at each station who will determine how many people can get in at each station.
- Trains should run at an average of 1 min apart. So that if a person misses a train,he or she does not panic and does not run to catch the already going away train.
- AC trains should be started which would have automated doors. The price of the ticket for the AC train can be increased a bit in order to cover the cost of installation.
The long term suggestions:
- Augment the local trains with other means of mass commute systems : develop metro networks, develop waterways as a means of transport etc. Elaborate a little here.
- Better urban planning : better urban planning can directly address the reason for congestion in trains. For example concentration of business districts in the south and residential districts in the north of the city leads to overcrowding in southbound trains in the morning and north bound trains in the evening. Businesses and corporations can be incentivized to move offices to other parts of the cities by giving them tax breaks and providing them with the requisite infrastructure. This will make the movement of people less uni directional.
- Developing ssatellite cities : developing more satellite cities along the lines of Navi Mumbai which have their own residential and business districts moving a chunk of population from Mumbai.