Judging by the disruption to Central Railway (CR) train services yesterday, it seems impeding local trains is the best option troublemakers rely on. Thousands of people — staying in illegal slums and shanties adjoining the rail lines — sat on rail tracks near Kalwa station after a notice issued by police and civic authorities informed them that their illegal shanties would be demolished soon.
It was ascertained that the protest was organised with the tacit support of local MLA Jitendra Awhad from the Nationalist Congress Party, who is against the demolition. Around 7 am, thousands of dwellers came out of their homes and began walking on the tracks. At around 7.40 am, they congregated near Kharegaon railway crossing, Kalwa, and began crossing the tracks to the other side. This is when trains on the Up and Down section started facing the music.
The apparent reason for this rail roko was that on Tuesday at 4 pm, police and municipal authorities informed these occupants that their illegal shanties would be demolished. To protest against the notice, the residents decided to come out in huge numbers the next morning, thereby disrupting train services. Local police were helpless, as they couldn’t stop them due to the huge numbers.
More than 55 rail services were cancelled, and trains were running late by an hour. By evening, the delay period reduced to 30 minutes. “Due to a protest by political organisation, services were affected between Thane and Kalyan,” said the CR spokesperson.
After the disruption to rail services, and inconvenience to commuters, railway passenger associations have decided to do more than just give their views, and will now personally lodge a complaint with CR, state government and the local municipal corporation, asking them to tackle such issues sternly. “These people unnecessarily created problems for thousands of commuters who were on their way to work. If he [Awhad] had problems, then he should build buildings for these dwellers rather than spend money during festivals. I will complain to the railway authorities and the municipal corporation about those that initiated this,” said Madhu Kotian, member, Mumbai Upnagriya Rail Pravasi Sangh.
The severe bunching of trains caused distress to many people who were in a hurry to get to office in the morning peak hours.
“Awhad and his party members cannot take things lightly. Thousands of commuters suffered because of a few illegal hutments. As it is for the last two days we have had severe disruption due to the rains,” said Vishwanath Datrak, member, Upnagriaya Pravasi Mahasangh.
MLA Awhad, who is at the receiving end, defended the incident stating that he was standing behind his people who were being asked to leave their houses.
“These people were getting to the main road on the other side of the railway crossing. Those blaming me don’t know the geographical topography of the area. I have been pursing this matter with the state government since 2004 asking it to build houses for these residents, which has fallen on deaf ears,” said Awhad.
Meanwhile, other commuters also plan to approach the railway authorities during the forthcoming Zonal Railway Users Consultative Committee meeting and ask them to take preventive steps.