Communication is the key to any crisis

Huge train delays, and talk about new and improved trains coming to naught resulted in frustration and boiling over of pent-up emotions yesterday morning. The delay provoked passengers to go on a violent rail roko agitation at Diva railway station near Thane. A number of people were injured, including policemen. Cops had to resort to lathi charge after the commuters started pelting stones and the agitation escalated. One could see chaos at Central Railway stations till late afternoon, with trains being delayed throughout. The tracks were occupied by protesting commuters leading to further delays and services could only restart after passengers moved out. Some vehicles were also torched in the ensuing melee, as the ire spilt outside stations.

The problems have their roots in two primary things. Commuters’ expectations soar as Railways make grandiose announcements about improvements in services and new trains. Secondly, when an untoward incident occurs or there is no communication between Railways authorities and commuters. One cannot stress this enough — channels of communication need to be kept open to prevent panic, rumour mongering and finally incidents like hysterical passengers jumping on tracks and running pell-mell towards platforms. In tragic and extreme circumstances they have been mowed down by oncoming trains as they have been running on the track.

While commuters’ frustration is understandable, especially those who will have their salaries cut if they come in late or miss a day of work, some restraint will also be appreciated. When things go wrong, it is little use aggravating the situation or turning it into a deadly one, by vandalising public property or setting fire to vehicles. Anger and ire are one thing, but to channelise them in a way that could harm not only yourself but others is counter productive.

The bigger responsibility though is of the Railways. A concerted will to improve services, keep grandiose statements in check and most importantly, tell commuters in clear, concise language what is the status quo. Communication is key and we will never tire of hammering this home.

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