Why Churchgate railway station is sitting on a ticking time bomb

Updated: Feb 13, 2019, 11:23 IST | Arita Sarkar | Mumbai

BJP corporator writes to BMC questioning how illegal shop at Churchgate railway station sells cigarettes in an enclosed space used by 10 lakh people daily

Customers brazenly light up cigarettes inside the subway, right in front of the shop. Pic/Suresh Karkera
Customers brazenly light up cigarettes inside the subway, right in front of the shop. Pic/Suresh Karkera

More than a decade after smoking was banned in public places, the menace still continues underground - in our crowded and poorly ventilated subways, no less. At the Churchgate railway station subway, one of the busiest in the city, there's even a shop illegally selling cigarettes, where customers openly light up, using the lighter generously provided by the shopkeeper.

Lighting up cigarettes in such a cramped, already airless public space is not only a health hazard for the 10 lakh pedestrians passing through the Churchgate subway, but is also a major fire risk. In fact, officials say cigarette butts, when not disposed properly, are among the top five causes of fire. Just one cigarette butt that's not been put out properly can spark a blaze that will only be fuelled further by combustible materials in the shops.

Customers can be seen buying cigarettes inside the subway store and lighting up right there. Pics/Suresh Karkera
Customers can be seen buying cigarettes inside the subway store and lighting up right there. Pics/Suresh Karkera

Not prepared for fire
What's more, the city is not prepared to handle a fire disaster in subways either. Fire officials said that since most subways don't have shops and are used primarily by pedestrians, fires are largely ruled out as a possible disaster. A civic official also said that currently, there are no fire extinguishers installed in the subway, as is the case in most public places, since they mostly get stolen.

"Fire safety inside the Churchgate subway has been a concern, and we have been planning to set up a proper fire-fighting system inside," said the official. That is why cigarette shops are illegal in subways. In fact, the BMC is now on a mission to shut all shops in subways across the city.

Piyush Goyal gets his AC train car at Churchgate in rush hour

Shop will have to close
Officials from the Market Department said that the shop in the Churchgate subway has been running illegally, since BMC doesn't issue licences to cigarette shops in subways. "Selling cigarettes in subways is definitely not allowed, and neither is smoking there. We will take action against the shop," said Dr Sangita Hasnale, assistant municipal commissioner of Market Department.

She added, "We have initiated action to close all shops in subways and have issued notices to them as well." The matter of the subway was brought to the notice of civic authorities by BJP corporator Makarand Narwekar, who wrote to assistant municipal commissioner of A ward, Kiran Dighavkar, and the chief fire officer on Saturday. Referring to fires that have broken out at public places like Crawford Market, Narwekar said, "People smoke in the subway are putting the lives of thousands at risk; all it takes is one spark from a cigarette to start a fire.

How can the BMC allow someone to sell cigarettes there so openly?" A fire official told this reporter, "If there are shops with combustible material, then there are chances of a fire breaking out when cigarettes are not disposed in a proper manner. In the past, fires have been caused in this manner in forests and industrial areas, or any place with dry grass," said a fire official. Dighavkar said, "Smoking is not permitted in subways. We will monitor the situation and will take action accordingly," he said.

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