A 25-year-old man from Pune got the shock of his life when he climbed up on the roof of a CST-Panvel train and was electrocuted by the 25,000 volt running through the overhead wires. This came as a terrible jolt to the Central Railway, which converted its Harbour line from the 1,500-volt DC system to the nearly 17 times stronger Alternating Current just two days ago.
Rooftop travelling is a regular menace on the Harbour line, but has become particularly dangerous now, since the conversion to the more powerful 25,000-volt electrical system. File pic for representation
This is the first such incident since the electrical conversion on Saturday night, but rooftop travelling is a regular problem on the Harbour line, so CR was already prepared. The railway authorities had deployed extra police personnel to curb the problem at five stations that are particularly notorious for rooftop travelling. But Mohammad Waris Shaikh managed to foil all their efforts and suffered 90% burns for it.
Mohammad Waris Shaikh had come to Mumbai a fortnight ago and boarded the train to visit a relative
Shaikh did not seem to comprehend what had happened when mid-day visited him at Rajawadi Hospital, where he is now under treatment. The first thing he asked this reporter was to take a picture of him so he could see what his face looked like after the accident.
Shaikh hails from Uttar Pradesh and works at a salon in Pune, while his wife resides in their hometown. He had come to Mumbai a fortnight ago to visit his relatives. “I was staying at my maternal aunt’s house in Govandi and decided to visit another aunt in Sion before I went back to UP. So I boarded the train on Monday morning and decided I would change trains at Kurla station,” he said.
The train was completely packed and Shaikh clambered onto the roof. “As the train reached Tilak Nagar, I started to climb back down so I could get off at Kurla. I don’t remember what exactly happened but I felt the current from the wires pulling me closer, and then I fell unconscious. I woke up in hospital,” he recalled.
Sources from CR said this was exactly what they had feared, as the 25,000-volt system is very powerful and can exert a pull on a person standing even two to three feet away. And since it holds greater voltage, the new system is also more likely to result in fatal electrocution.
“To prevent this, we had formed teams at five stations where rooftop travelling is prevalent,” said S Bhalode, senior divisional railway commissioner (Mumbai). Since Sunday, six staffers were posted at Govandi, four at Mankhurd, two at Vashi, Tilak Nagar and Chunabhatti stations. Their job was to bring down any rooftop travellers spotted.
However, officials said that many times, offenders run on the roof to escape the cops. “At times, these offenders climb the rooftop once the train has left the station and is in motion,” said another RPF officer. In such cases, the officers warn their colleagues at the next station. In this case, Shaikh was also warned about the danger by other commuters.
RPF officers said their constables had heard other commuters shout at Shaikh, asking him to come down from the rooftop. He was sitting on the third coach from the Panvel end, when he came in contact with the overhead cable and got a strong jolt. This incident happened at 11.58 am, after which the train was stalled till he was brought down and sent to hospital at 12.10 pm. His aunt from Govandi, Diljaha Shaikh, said she received a call from a police constable at 12:30 pm, inform her about the accident. “Shaikh was about to take a train to UP on Monday night. That morning, he told me he was going out for some work and would return soon. I warned him to stay at home but he left anyway and the accident took place,” she added.
A doctor from Rajawadi Hospital told this paper, “The patient was electrocuted and brought with burn injuries. He is at present stable and can speak. He is being kept under observation.”
When Shaikh learnt that rooftop travelling is a punishable crime, he feared repercussions from the law and his own family, and quickly changed his statement. He then claimed that he was trying to board the train normally but slipped and was dragged by the train. He said he got burnt by the hot surface of the station platform.