Elphinstone Road stampede: Almost a year on, nothing's changed at the railway station
With monsoons around the corner and WR's eviction drive in full swing, ground zero of last year's stampede remains a dangerous spot
A new FOB is being built at the north end, where the stampede took place
Six months since the stampede at Elphinstone Road station, and despite Western Railway's claims of clearing out hawkers, mid-day has found that not much has changed on the ground. Not only have the authorities failed to remove slums at the south end of the fatal foot overbridge (FOB), but also, hawkers have returned to the north end, where the tragedy had taken place.
During a visit to ground zero on Friday, mid-day found that both ends of the deadly FOB were blocked. On the north end, where the stampede took place, the slums had been cleared out but the hawkers have once again taken over the space. The southern end of the FOB was still worse, with vendors and slums lining the entire stretch of road just outside the railway premises. Unless the authorities act fast, these cluttered entry and exit points are likely to be a problem once the monsoon sets in. Railway Minister Piyush Goyal had conducted a series of meetings with top railway and BMC officials in the city after the 2017 stampede that killed 23 people, but the effects of the railway crackdown seem to be weakening.
The south end is still overrun with hawkers and slums veiled in blue tarp sheets
Prakash Shah, an officegoer who regularly passes through the station, said, "At the south landing of the FOB, the area is still full of illegal settlements that have been now covered with blue plastic sheets, so that they are not visible. In front of the slums, there are several rows of hawkers, taking up yet more space. There's also mountains of debris lying there."
Fellow commuter Rajneesh Joshi agreed, "The approach to the station from either side remains congested due to already narrow roads that are further encroached on by illegal settlements." Further ahead from the north end of the footbridge, a new FOB is still in the process of being built. Until then, there are only two other exit points —an FOB connecting to a road over bridge landing directly at the station, and the third FOB at the Churchgate-end, which also lands on a narrow road.
WR blames BMC
Meanwhile, the WR is playing the blame game. Chief spokesperson Ravinder Bhakar refuted allegations of hawkers returning to the station, and said they had launched a sustained drive to remove vendors from railway premises. He added that those in the BMC's jurisdiction were also being documented, so that the BMC could be notified about them. Bhakar added, "Till now, 5,119 railway hawkers have been prosecuted across the Mumbai division. The situation is being monitored through the Eyewatch App by the Commercial Department and the Railway Protection Force." Sanjay Mishra, divisional railway manager for WR, said, "The hawkers outside the station are in the BMC's jurisdiction. We have taken up the matter with the civic body for stern action."
No. of hawkers prosecuted across Mumbai
Commuters at the station at peak hours
No. of people who died in the stampede on September 29
Western Railway: Elphinstone stampede occurred due to false rumours