On Swachhata divas, train derails in mounds of garbage in Mumbai

Updated: Oct 03, 2019, 08:02 IST | Rajendra B Aklekar | Mumbai

Harbour line train slips off track that is almost covered in rubbish between Mahim and King's Circle stations on Wednesday

Even as rail officials were on a PR overdrive about their clean-up drives on Gandhi Jayanti, a local derailed in an ocean of waste between Mahim and King's Circle. Pics/Ashish Raje
Even as rail officials were on a PR overdrive about their clean-up drives on Gandhi Jayanti, a local derailed in an ocean of waste between Mahim and King's Circle. Pics/Ashish Raje

In an irony of sorts, a local train derailed most likely because of the mounds of garbage almost covering the tracks between King's Circle and Mahim stations on October 2, the fifth anniversary of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan. The derailment shut down the harbour line for four hours, even as gangmen were seen trying hard to pull out the garbage entangled in the train wheels.

The railways is, interestingly, at the peak of its frenzied two-week-long Swachhata clean-up drive, bombarding commuters with messages, holding stage shows and performing skits to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on Wednesday. A visit to the derailment site by mid-day revealed a trail of garbage stuck tight in the wheels and on the track. The track is on a very sharp curve and the Indian Railways had recently made changes in the jurisdiction limits of Central and Western Railways, involving the location.

Admitting that trash hampers maintenance, officials said it could've also forced train off track
Admitting that trash hampers maintenance, officials said it could've also forced train off track

The railways downplayed the incident, with the spokesperson issuing a terse statement saying the wheel of one front trolley of a coach of CSMT-Bandra local train derailed in the Mumbai Central Division of Western Railway around 11.28 am on Wednesday and that no injuries had been reported.

A subsequent message said the affected train was re-railed at 1.08pm and taken to the Kandivli car shed with the overhead wires restored at 1.19pm and the first train on the line for Bandra departing from CSMT at 3.32pm. A Western Railway spokesperson said a Senior Administrative Grade level inquiry had been ordered by the General Manager into the incident.

Garbage lines the tracks between Mahim and King's Circle thanks to encroachments nearby
Garbage lines the tracks between Mahim and King's Circle thanks to encroachments nearby

The site where the accident took place is also notorious for unfenced slums along the track, with most locals doing most of their activities along the track. Recently, a guard of a local train was robbed of a mobile phone along this stretch.

WR is not ruling out garbage as the cause of the derailment. "Many times, obstacles, torn clothes and large pieces of rubbing are thrown on tracks by the residents in the nearby slums which are enough to derail coaches. Inspite of the tracks being regularly cleaned by gangmen/trackmen it is humanly impossible to prevent such accumulation of garbage 24/7. This is a serious cause of concern for us while trying to ply trains safely on this stretch. In fact, all stabling lines are blocked at Mahim owing to encroachments," a senior official at the site said.

However, WR chief spokesperson Ravinder Bhakar said while garbage has been an issue along the stretch for a long time, it cannot be held as a prime reason for the derailment. "There are several other factors as well such as the dimension of the tracks and the dimension of the coach, which will also be considered before arriving at any conclusion. A senior administrative grade enquiry has been constituted to investigate the derailment in detail. Garbage, of course, has been an issue at the location and we have cleared it many times, but it is a recurring problem because of the encroachments nearby. It does affect track maintenance," Bhakar said.

Jurisdiction issues

Interestingly, CR and WR had a minor tiff over jurisdiction soon after the accident, with the very first messages that journalists got were basic details of the derailed train and that it belonged to the Central Railway and that a portion of the train with a few coaches was on Central Railway and a few on Western Railway. CR teams immediately countered this, saying the derailment occurred completely in Western Railway's Mumbai Central jurisdiction. WR's later statement clearing the air said that an inquiry had been launched into the matter.

"How does it matter whose jurisdiction the area belongs to? Commuters take the suburban railway as one unit and such issues should not be given importance when an accident occurs," Zonal Railway Users Consultative Committee Member Shailesh Goyal said.

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