Commuter violence was on the wrong track

Western Railway (WR) services were disrupted thanks to a derailment on Tuesday, morning. The city was thrown out of gear as one arm of Mumbai’s lifeline seemed paralyzed. The problem was compounded by late evening as lakhs of commuters struggled to get home. Some commuters reached their homes from their workplaces at least three hours after they usually do so.

Frustration and rage was mounting and suddenly, people found their target. Around 10.30 pm that day, a few commuters surrounded Vile Parle’s stationmaster, Ashok Azad, and allegedly manhandled him. Sources said Azad fell on the tracks during the ensuing scuffle and received minor injuries on his chest and abdomen. Now, stationmasters do not want to wear their white uniforms, as they feel they often have to bear the brunt of angry commuters who can easily identify them by the uniform. Earlier too, we have had incidents of railway staff being beaten up when an accident or any disruption in services has taken place. Stone throwing too, is common.

Violence is not the answer to any problem, including this one. It is unfair that railway staff have to literally run to save life and limb in such situations. They must be given protection by the railway police. This protection must be given in anticipation of trouble following a disruption in services. Authorities cannot wait for the problem to escalate and only then rush in the police.

Commuters must also show restraint and maturity. One will get nothing by beating up drivers or stationmasters. Violence is always ugly and counter-productive. Instead, focus on the problem, ask and actually use people power to demand solutions, such as a better announcement system and more information during such crises.

Today, a uniform that has always been worn with pride, is actually being shunned by stationmasters. It is a matter of great shame and does not speak highly of the railway authorities or commuters.

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