The sea of huts and shanties illegally spawning along the railway tracks has long remained an eyesore for Mumbaikars taking the suburban trains on their daily commute. However, the Western Railway (WR) seems to have finally woken up to the problem and will begin removing these illegal encroachments along the tracks on the 60-km long Churchgate-Virar route.
Encroachments have become a menace not only for the railways but also the airport and rest of the city as they occupy large areas of land in a city already struggling to breathe. Not only are the illegal structures near railway stations an eyesore, they also pose as a threat to the commuters travelling in local and mail express trains. “These structures have illegally encroached on railway land. We are removing them after identifying the areas under our jurisdiction where they are prominent. Although we are aware that they tend to resurface after sometime,” said a WR official on condition of anonymity.
Sources say that some of the stretches where encroachments are most are Borivli, Kandivli, Jogeshwari, Bandra and Mahim. WR authorities claim that of the 1,322 hectares of land available on the Virar-Churchgate suburban section, only 3.5 hectares have been encroached upon. In fact, most of these illegal structures have come up on the east side of these railway stations.
The WR will begin the demolition once they appoint a private contractor for this purpose by August-September. The demolition of these illegal encroached structures will be done at a cost of Rs 87 lakh and will be completed within 12 months. “From time to time we carry out the demolition of illegal structures on our land,” said Sharat Chandrayan, chief PRO, WR.
Adding to the nuisance, there have been incidents in the past where miscreants standing on signal poles hit commuter’s hands as trains pass by, in an attempt to make them drop their belongings. Commuters have also been reported to have fallen from moving trains due to the same. Stone throwing has also been a long-time issue for commuters standing at the footboard. WR officials state that these miscreants either reside at these illegal shanties or manage to escape through the alleys of the close-knitted shanties.