Last year, 2,781 people were killed and another 2,387 injured on Mumbai’s lifeline — the locals. They died because of: travelling atop trains, leaning out and hitting poles, trespassing on railway tracks, falling off moving trains or falling in gaps between the train and the platform.
The casualty statistics make up a fraction of the 75 lakh train commuters. But the individual lives lost have spun countless stories of bereavement and pain. Even so, the issue of safe travel hasn’t got the attention it deserves and the analysis it requires from political parties or the media.
Take the case of Monika More, the teenager from Kurla who lost both her limbs while trying to board a moving train at Ghatkopar station.
Her thoughtlessness in challenging a multi-tonne train in motion — something many of us Mumbaikars have been guilty of doing and have, in fact, come to accept as a fact of travel — cannot be blamed on the railways. But the attention-hungry politicians have turned the mishap into an image-building exercise.
They are milking her misfortune to gain mileage. They have been visiting the hospital, making announcements, meeting railway authorities and carrying out dharnas, forgetting that every day, on an average, 10 lives are lost on railway tracks.
Buckling under political pressure and populist demands, the railways is working out a compensation package for the girl, who technically can be booked for trespassing. They are also thinking of modifying the design of the platform where the incident occurred.
This may seem like it is doing a world of good, but it is ultimately going to cost the public. Commuters could experience repercussions like safety routines and train delays that will throw daily travel into disarray.
Mumbaikars, however, should thank Monika to bring to fore an altogether forgotten aspect of train-travel safety – closing train doors. Railway and government agencies are mulling over whether to make it mandatory to shut train doors before the rake leaves the platform. The authorities feel this is vital for such high-density modes of transport even if the train’s carrying capacity comes down drastically. Let’s hope the
incident shakes Mumbai out of its bad commuting habits, and makes its commuters give life the respect it deserves.