Mumbai: Women take local train amid cautious cheer

Updated: 22 October, 2020 07:27 IST | Prajakta Kasale, Arita Sarkar, Pallavi Smart | Mumbai

Women commuters follow norms and ensure breezy ride, call for circumspection as crowds increase

Women alight from a train at CSMT on Wednesday. Pic/Suresh Karkera
Women alight from a train at CSMT on Wednesday. Pic/Suresh Karkera

Finally able to travel on local trains without hindrance after seven months of shutdown, women commuters were all smiles on Wednesday. In addition to already running trains, CR and WR arranged additional services. Crowds of women thronged booking counters to get their expired season tickets stamped. Amid the cheer, there were also words of caution regarding crowds as social distancing took a backseat.

Dipali Tendolkar, from Malad
Dipali Tendolkar, from Malad

It being the first day, crowds were under control in the morning. Many got the opportunity to travel, they thanked and cheered us too," a ticket checker at Dadar said. Wednesday's train travel came as a welcome change for commuters tired of travelling via road. Women urged the Railways to remove time restrictions too.

Women commuters at Mumbai Central station. Pic/Bipin Kokate
Women commuters at Mumbai Central station. Pic/Bipin Kokate

The Railway Protection Force (RPF) conducted a drive regarding women's safety and security and COVID-19 SOPs at Kalyan station. Women were given booklets with dos and don'ts and relevant legal information.

A ticket checker and commuters seen at Borivli station
A ticket checker and commuters seen at Borivli station

Women commuters from Dombivli on Central Railway complained that there were excessive crowds at the station in the morning at booking counters to renew season tickets and buy tickets. The queues stretched onto the roads outside the station and as photos and videos went viral, railway authorities stepped in to increase the booking windows to streamline the crowds.

A woman commuter at Kandivli railway station
A woman commuter at Kandivli railway station

mid-day's too travelled in the trains to witness the return of the city's women commuters and the takeaways across stations and people are myriad.

Women queue up at a ticket counter at Borivli station. Pics/Satej Shinde
Women queue up at a ticket counter at Borivli station. Pics/Satej Shinde

Borivli to Bandra

A ladies coach while travelling between Borivli and Bandra
A ladies coach while travelling between Borivli and Bandra

Women boarded the local trains with much gratitude to the authorities on Wednesday. While there was a huge number of office going women, there were some young girls gangs too. With many aspects of travel changed, there was some confusion initially. However, inside the trains, the atmosphere felt just like pre-COVID times, especially as the crowd increased.

On a trip from Borivli to Bandra and back, this mid-day reporter witnessed social distancing only till Malad after the train departed from Borivli. Many preferred to stand near the door. Although many tried to maintain a distance, getting on and off the train in a hurry, many others did not bother about it. Some even took off their masks after getting on to catch their breath or grab a bite.

On the seats though, women tried to maintain a distance between each other. However, with many travellers getting on on the first day itself and crowds expected to increase, this may not be possible. It is important that railways increase the number of services or start ladies specials to ensure that not more than three people sit on one seat. A system to keep a watch on social distancing inside coaches would also help.

Voices

Madhuri Jadhav, Nalasopara resident
'I am happy that my daily ordeal of travelling for five hours from Nalasopara to Goregaon has finally ended and I can reach work in just an hour'

Shalmali Dhumak, Lalbaug resident

Shalmali Dhumak, Lalbaug resident
'Other than the huge time spent travelling, there'd be no place to sit in buses with the one person per seat rule. With the crowd scattered here, the journey will be comfortable'

Jasmina Doshi, Borivli resident

Jasmina Doshi, Borivli resident
'I work at a hospital in Sion. The crowd will increase and they are not very disciplined. Bumping into each other, or brushing past people happened on the train today. Many did not wear masks properly. People aren't even taking the disease very seriously now'

Dipali Trivedi, Borivli resident

Dipali Trivedi, Borivli resident
'I am an advocate and travel to Vile Parle for work. Until now, I had been taking an autorickshaw to work daily. It is true that life is easier with trains but social distancing was possible only in autorickshaws. Here the crowd will be a lot'

Bandra to Churchgate

Bandra station on Wednesday
Bandra station on Wednesday

On the first day, Bandra station was largely empty. The stretch between Bandra and Churchgate saw few female commuters. They were cautious about social distancing. Contrary to the long queues usually seen at Bandra's ticket counters, there were hardly two or three people at every window. Pass holders got passes extended.

While entry was restricted to one gate, despite the presence of police and railway officials, there was no checking of tickets and pretty much anyone could walk in. To ensure social distancing between passengers while boarding trains, equidistant markings have been painted on the platforms. However, these were ignored by commuters.

Voices

Mauli Bharati, Santacruz resident

Mauli Bharati, Santacruz resident
'I work as an accountant in Kamala Mills. Taking the bus was a hassle as I never found a place to sit. They would run late and often wouldn't stop due to crowds. A commute that can be covered in 15-20 minutes by train would take over an hour-and-a-half by bus. I am very happy to be able to take the train again'

Binny Shah, Andheri resident

Binny Shah, Andheri resident
'I am a trainer in salons and my work involves a lot of travel. When the lockdown started, I would initially take the bus which took several hours. Then I started taking cabs and would end up shelling out most of my salary. The long hours spent travelling affect productivity as well. I look forward to taking the train every day now. They should be opened up for everyone'

Seema Panchal, Virar resident

Seema Panchal, Virar resident
'The current timings are not convenient for travel to work. I work at a mall in Bandra and I am going late today to be able to take the train. My husband has been dropping me to work. I wish the trains would start earlier so my husband need not have to drop me. Still, the four-five hour travel time while returning will be saved now'

Mira Road to Virar

A ladies coach while travelling between Mira Road and Virar
A ladies coach while travelling between Mira Road and Virar

Mira Road station's ticket counters saw long queues even before the scheduled time of 11 am for women commuters. With only one booking counter open, police had to intervene and enforce social distancing. While some women asked for passes or extensions, only tickets were being issued.

Mira Road railway station on Wednesday

The volume of commuters travelling towards Churchgate was more, with trains fully occupied at 11.38 am and some people standing at the door. However, the crowd was nothing like pre-COVID times. Trains also waited at platforms for a longer time so people could board them while also maintaining a distance.

Mira Road railway station on Wednesday
Mira Road railway station on Wednesday

Voices

Savita Ghaywad, Mira Road resident

Savita Ghaywad, Mira Road resident
'I have been travelling regularly as I work in the Agriculture Department. The trains were arriving at intervals of 5-10 minutes today as opposed to the 15 minutes earlier. There is less crowd than I expected; the past few months were pleasant since there were very few commuters. I think people should not push the government to start locals for everyone. Income is an issue but people's lives are also important'

A Malad resident
'Although locals started for women commuters, they stop at only a few stations. I was at Borivli waiting for a train but they were giving tickets only after 11 am. They are not even issuing passes. I will have to stand in queues every day now'

Sujani Dalavi, Virar resident

Sujani Dalavi, Virar resident
'I work at a housekeeping firm and have to be at work by 7 am. I used to leave home at 4.30 am to board an ST bus at 5.30 am. I'd get down at Bandra to go to Sion hospital. We cannot work in the second shift and this train service will not help us in any way. Sometimes I used to spend over R300 daily to just reach office. I can't afford it but I had to do it to save my job'

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First Published: 22 October, 2020 07:27 IST

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