RPF flops at 'supervising' rush hour in Mumbai locals

This was the question faced by Central Railway commuters yesterday at many stations, as railway cops tried to discourage people from boarding crowded trains, but did not meet with much success

Last evening, commuters at Dadar station didn’t just have to push past the rush hour crowds to find a spot on the train home, they were also faced by the railway police, who requested that they avoid boarding packed trains.

Also Read: Mumbai local train accidents: People do not care about their lives, says railway constable

The RPF made announcements about the dangers of hanging from the doorway of a crowded, running train. Pics/Satej Shinde
The RPF made announcements about the dangers of hanging from the doorway of a crowded, running train. Pics/Satej Shinde

But any Mumbaikar can tell you that finding a train that’s not crowded during rush hour is an impossible task. And this is exactly what they told the Railway Police Force (RPF) as well – ‘Aap batao kis train main gardi nahi hai, hum kitne train chhode?’ (You show us a train that’s not crowded. How many trains will we leave?)

During peak hours on Wednesday evening, Dadar station was a sea of people jostling to take the train home
During peak hours on Wednesday evening, Dadar station was a sea of people jostling to take the train home

On Friday, the entire city was shocked when a video went viral, showing 21-year-old Bhavesh Nakate struggling to find a foothold in a packed CST-bound train, gradually slipping away and falling to his death on the tracks (‘21-year-old dies after falling from packed rush hour local’, mid-day, November 28).

Read Story: Youth who fell off Mumbai local had not boarded regular train 'that' day

RPF officials also issued warnings to commuters who were blocking the doorway to the coaches. Blocking the entrance is an offence punishable by imprisonment and fine
RPF officials also issued warnings to commuters who were blocking the doorway to the coaches. Blocking the entrance is an offence punishable by imprisonment and fine

In a bid to prevent similar mishaps, the Central Railway (CR) and RPF yesterday formed teams to try and discourage commuters from boarding crowded trains. Calling it a sensitisation programme for commuters, the officials will at first take a soft approach to the problem, simply advising passengers to get off the train if there isn’t enough space for them.

Yesterday, the RPF took a soft approach, simply advising people to get off crowded trains and wait for the next one, but very few commuters paid heed to their warnings
Yesterday, the RPF took a soft approach, simply advising people to get off crowded trains and wait for the next one, but very few commuters paid heed to their warnings

If this doesn’t work, they will likely move to phase 2, and take action against those who ignore instructions. mid-day attended one such sensitisation effort at Dadar station during the peak evening hours yesterday, where the RPF was finding it difficult to control the hordes of irritated commuters jostling to board down trains from platforms 1 and 4.

In the peak hours, commuters count themselves lucky even if they find standing room in a train, and many are forced to simply hang from the doorway — exactly how young Bhavesh fell to his death. The news of his demise had shocked Mumbai commuters, so many got off crowded trains without the RPF even having to ask. But the majority of people refused to get off.

Also Read: Death due to overcrowding: Central Railway passengers want more trains

Amid frequent ‘tch-tch’ sounds, some commuters complained that if they had to wait for an uncrowded train, they would never get home. Others merely ignored the cops. An RPF officer said, “We are just trying to sensitize people and are asking them to try to take the next train if possible. But before we can persuade them to get off, the train leaves with them.”

A group of RPF personnel also went on the 12-metre-wide foot over bridge with a megaphone and banner in hand, and began to make announcements about the dangers of catching a moving train, standing on the footboard or hanging from the doorway of a running train. The RPF also identified a few commuters who were deliberately blocking the entrance to the coaches, only allowing their friends to board the train.

“Initially, we shall try to sensitize people. Gradually, if we find people purposely obstructing the entrance or creating nuisance while in a group, then necessary action will be taken,” said an RPF officer, adding that culprits would be charged under the Railways Act (see box).

This programme will continue for a while at four stations where CR and RPF officials will try to change commuter behaviour. In the morning, they will cover the Dombivli and Kalyan stations from 7 am to 10 am, and in the evening, they will patrol platforms at Kurla and Dadar between 6 pm and 9 pm. “There will be 20 personnel placed at each station during peak hours,” said AK Singh, chief security commissioner, CR.

Review committee
Yesterday, a committee was formed to review the rising trend of accidental deaths on Mumbai Suburban Rail. The first meeting will take place on December 6, after which a public hearing will also be held. The members are:
MP Kirit Somaiya,
MP Rajan Vichare,
MP Poonam Mahajan
MP Arvind Sawant
CR general manager SK Sood
BMC commissioner Ajoy Mehta
KDMC commissioner
E Ravindran
Social activist, L Nagwani
Passenger representative, Ketan Goradia

Penalty
Those who block the entrance to coaches will be charged under Section 156 of the Railways Act, which provides for imprisonment for up to three months and/or a fine of up to Rs 500.

Commuter speak

M Kotian, Mulund resident
You can’t expect us to get off the train because it is crowded. How will we go home? Anyway, this is not a real solution; it will go on for 10-15 days because things are hot right now. Railways should look for a permanent solution.

R Gangav, Kasara resident
The intention is good, but are the cops guaranteeing that people will actually get a seat or some place in the next local train? Politicians claim more trains will be operated but what about new rail lines?

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4 Comments

  • Mukul03-Dec-2015

    People are forced to travel in crowded train since there is no other option. Govt should address basic problems and such knee jerk reactions will certainly not help. Mumbai local trains have outlived its utility and in absence of fore-planning situation has become grave now which can not be tackled by such Juvenile approach

  • Ramesh07-Dec-2015

    People don't board crowded trains for any thrill. Govt should take proactive steps to ease the situation. Moreover, the only long-term solution is to decongest Mumbai, and develop satellite cities around it which can be linked through rail, road, and even waterways. Due to the power real estate developers' lobby, the Govt of Maharashtra has not developed or moved its offices to Navi Mumbai as planned in 1970s due to this lobby. It's futile building Metro or Monorails etc. in Mumbai anymore.

  • Saurabh03-Dec-2015

    Idiotic solution. Police is certainly not smarter than public. Passengers can never board a Mumbai local train if they wait for an uncrowded train.

  • shyam03-Dec-2015

    though the committee consists of rail officers but they did not turn up for debate on tv. the present rm is soft spoken and the babus under him always take him for granted. i remember on a query from press in similar situation decade back to the then rm, rm shot back saying that he had not invited people to travel by railways. compared to that if the present rm is listening and assuring (one year in office) the press and public at large criticise him with no basis. the then rm was shrewd ...

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