Every day, about 10 people die on Mumbai’s rail tracks. Irrespective of whether or not the railways are at fault, they have to compensate families of victims. The fact is that in the last three years Central Railway (CR) has paid Rs 114 crore to these victims, which may have been avoided if there were better facilities for commuters, apart from awareness among people about hazards of crossing tracks, leaning out of running trains and travelling on rooftops.
According to a senior official from CR, the railway administration has stopped its insurance scheme from 2008, deciding to disburse the recompense from its own coffers. The reason was that the premium railways were paying to the insurance firms was much more than the actual claims received at the end of every month. “We used to shell out around Rs 100 crore as premium every year, and this was just for the Mumbai division. Though, we have paid a smaller amount as compensation to accidental victims, but still spending Rs 114 crore in three years on paying compensation is unfortunate. Instead of handing out damages, we should plan a permanent solution so accidents never happen on tracks,” he said.
To bring the toll down and save money, railways have started constructing boundary walls along the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST)-Thane stretch on the Central line and till Mankhurd on the Harbour line. Every year more than Rs 25 crore is spent on blocking trespassers. When MiD DAY spoke to Subodh Jain, general manager, CR, he said, “We have opted to pay out the compensation on our own after discontinuing the passenger insurance scheme. We have been mulling this issue from time to time and we will be spending money for the welfare of our passengers. We will construct more FOBs, fences and other precautionary measures to save lives.”
Authorities say they have taken many preventive steps, but people don’t take things seriously and prefer to cross tracks just to save some time. “We are spending lakhs of rupees on building boundary walls, but time and again miscreants damage them to create shortcuts. We are also attempting to reduce the gaps between trains and platforms up to Thane. Then we will extend this as far as Karjat and Kasara,” said another senior CR official. The boundary walls along the tracks are 1.2-1.8 metres in height. At places close to slums, they are as high as 3 metres. “It costs us around Rs 7,000 per metre to erect these cement concrete walls,” he added. The distance between CST and Kalyan is over 60 km.
Recently, a high-level safety review committee headed by Dr Anil Kakodkar submitted a report to ministry of railways on the loopholes in the system that lead to such high number of accidents on tracks. The report identified lack of barricading and fencing between tracks, dearth of adequate number of pedestrian bridges, narrow platforms, and not enough escalators and lif for the disabled as factors contributing to the rising number of casualties. It has recommended forming an advanced task force, involving zonal railway commuters, state government and NGOs to take measures for curbing this problem.
“Efforts have to be made to prevent trespassing by installing fences between tracks and reducing the slopes on platforms. There are people who would previously walk across the tracks, but after listening to the awareness messages from railways, now try to use the FOBs,” said Subhash Gupta, member, Zonal Railway Users Consultative Committee.