The gangmen are the foot soldiers of the city -- they ensure that the suburban train system offers a smooth and safe ride to the lakhs of commuters who use it every day. But what to they get in return? Scorn, ridicule and harassment from these very commuters.
According to the track workers, they have been facing this problem for a long time. “We are working for the passengers, but these people kick us from the moving train. It hurts us but we still haven’t complained to the authorities. This is a tough job that requires concentration, but passengers are not supporting us,” said a gangman, who worked near Thane railway station.
Meanwhile, authorities are busy arranging drives and taking precautionary measures after several gangmen were killed on duty. In the last three months, the railways have lost 12 gangmen on railway tracks, after trains mowed them down.
Because of the unsafe work environment, the workers say they are not able to concentrate. “We have to be on our toes, as there is a train every two minutes. We also have to tackle the passengers, who pass comments or throw trash at us. They also hurt us,” said another gangman working on the tracks near Malad. This 46-year-old gangman has been a victim several times. “I was working on the tracks near Kandivli last weekend, when a passenger hit me with his leg. I couldn’t see his face, but only heard him laugh,” he added.
Workers say hundreds of such cases have taken place, but none have been brought to the notice of the officials. There are about 12,000 gangmen in Central and Western Railway. Another gangman working near Thane claimed that a passenger kicked him, and he went under the train. “Luckily, I fell on the opposite side. Otherwise, I would have been dead,” recalled the 32-year-old who is planning to quit soon.