India

No more excuses: Mumbai stampede should have been averted

Oct 3, 2017
Another stampede, this time in the heart of Mumbai on a foot over-bridge at Elphinstone local train station, took more than 20 lives and injured over 30. It is a tragic red signal to our governments that urban infrastructure is falling apart at the seams and a revamp cannot be postponed any longer. When India aims for a bullet train network it is absurd that we are unable to provide safe commuting options for people who step out of the security of homes to reach their workplaces and colleges, or pray to their gods, or go festival shopping.
 
These are people who pay for their travel and yet have to suffer the indignity of being herded like cattle into cramped train compartments, stations and makeshift rain shelters like foot over-bridges. Is it unreasonable to expect better facilities? In 2016-17, the Mumbai suburban rail network carried 2.7 billion passengers translating to an average daily ridership of 7.4 million, a mind boggling figure which stands testimony to the phenomenal load on the network’s 136 stations. There were 3,202 fatalities in 2016, with falls from overcrowded trains accounting for most deaths.
 
The tragedy happened a day after railway minister Piyush Goyal announced plans to double Mumbai local train services in three years and increase train length. It is now clear that stations are also in need of upgradation. The Mumbai metro was expected to take some of the load off the suburban network but delays have plagued the project. Elphinstone station was renamed as Prabhadevi, but populism is no solution for developmental problems. Mock drills, crowd management measures, and disaster mitigation lessons need to be ingrained in civic practices considering the creaky state of our infrastructure and population pressures.
 
Times of India, September 30, 2017

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