The unexpected strike by Western Railway (WR) motormen on Friday not only inconvenienced lakhs of commuters but was also responsible for injuries and a death on the tracks due to overcrowding. Now railway passenger associations in the city are planning to file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on the entire episode, apart from lodging a criminal complaint against the train drivers for their erratic behaviour.
On Friday, 26-year-old fashion designer Reema Kulkarni died in a stampede after falling on the tracks through the gap between the platform and a train at Borivli station. She was boarding the Flying Ranee that goes up to Vadodara, which was being run by WR authorities to alleviate the crowd at railway stations. Six commuters suffered injuries at different stations while they were trying to board overcrowded trains.
The strike saw 225 motormen going on a mass ‘sick leave’, on the pretext that they wanted fixed weekly offs, and a few other demands. Senior railway officials allege that the motormen were angry because four train operators who worked during the 2010 strike had been promoted.
Death on tracks
Madhu Kotian, president of Mumbai Pravasi Sangh met with activists and members regarding the issue. “It was decided in the meeting that the motormen are always harassing passengers due to no fault of theirs. We will be filing a PIL against the motormen who participated in the strike. Due to their strike, passengers died and also suffered injuries,” said Kotian. “They have the full right to fight with the administration, but we are objecting against their methods. Pregnant women, senior citizens and students are most inconvenienced during such strikes,” he added.
Additional BEST and ST buses were run during the strike to compensate for the cancellation of services.
Another railway activist, S Balakrishnan of Deshbhakti Andolan has already filed a complaint against Devendra Yadav, convenor of Western Railway Motormen’s Association (WRMA). “I have made complaints to the chairman of the railway board, divisional railway manager and the commissioner of police. If authorities do not take action, we will file a PIL in the Bombay High court on Wednesday,” said Balakrishnan.
Sandeep Silas, DRM, WR, said, “It is very sad that a passenger died and a few were injured due to the strike. We are studying the situation and are trying to find a way out. We are trying our best to ensure that such an incident does not take place again.”
‘Don’t blame us’
Devendra Yadav, convenor, WRMA, said, “They (WR authorities) are not understanding our problem and so, they are blaming us. Whenever any accident takes place, without confirming facts, the motormen are held responsible. For years, we have demanded assistant drivers in vain. If the passenger association has decided to file the PIL, we will also raise our voices.”
On the day of the strike, over 20 lakh passengers were either forced to travel in jam-packed trains, or were left stranded on stations along the Western line. WR carries nearly 34 lakh passengers everyday in its 1,250 up and down services.