Hundreds of revellers celebrating Dussehra on the main platform of Ambernath station put the lives of thousands of fellow commuters at grave risk on Saturday, when they burst crackers, set off rockets and bombs within a few feet of electric meter boxes, running trains and thousands of onlookers.
All the while, a handful of Railway Protection Force (RPF) cops on duty at the platform, watched on -- perhaps as unaware as the revellers that lighting up even a matchstick on a railway platform is illegal and dangerous.
Over a hundred daily commuters gathered at platform No 2 of Ambernath station at 8.30 am and started bursting crackers. They had come prepared with drummers, music bands and packets of bombs and gulal boxes in tow.
According to many of the aghast onlookers, most of the men taking part in this dangerous and illegal activity, were regulars on the 8.50 am Ambernath-CST fast. The passengers, who were apparently celebrating Dussehra a day in advance, started garlanding the train and bursting crackers as soon as the 8.50 am local arrived at the platform, a few minutes ahead of his scheduled departure.
Prakash Gohil, a resident of Ambernath who was travelling to Kalyan, said, “I heard loud drumbeats and the sound of crackers as I walked into the station and realised that some passengers were celebrating Dussehra. But on reaching the train I was shocked to see them bursting crackers, with scant regard to safety of others. The crackers were going off in all directions. In trains they keep putting up posters about how even carrying any inflammable object on a train is a penal offence, and here we had a 100 men bursting fire crackers. It was shocking to see the police take no action against the commuters.”
Another passenger, who chose to remain anonymous, added, “These men were throwing colour, which they had brought with them and were distributing sweets as well. There is no harm in celebrating Dussehra but bursting crackers on a railway platform with electric cables all around, is life-threatening and not acceptable.”
Photographs available with SUNDAY MiD DAY reveal how RPF men present at the platform merely stood by and watched the drama unfold.
When contacted an RPF spokesperson said, “We only had four men and there were hundreds of revellers. We tried to intervene but nobody listened. We had no option but to inform our senior officials.” “Most surprisingly, the motormen and guard of the train were felicitated by a few passengers,” said Mohit Singh, another commuter.
Strangely, once the train left with the commuters who had lit the crackers, the RPF staff arrived in large numbers and arrested the band of musicians who had been paid to play the drums. Alok Bohra, senior divisional security commissioner, RPF (CR), said, “We have arrested the band members and are investigating the matter. We will soon arrest those who lit crackers and violated rules. We are watching the CCTV footage for further details.”