Mumbai: Broken pantograph leads to riots at Diva, Dombivli and Kalyan. Central Railway paralysed for six hours. Eighteen arrested.
The New Year began on a disastrous note for Central Railway, which witnessed one of the worst riots on its suburban line, when a few hundred people resorted to stone-pelting, smashing trains’ windowpanes, and looting the booking counters of cash worth Rs 53,000 and railway coupons with Rs 63,000 at Diva Railway Station over disruption of services early on Friday. Two booking counters and six ATVMs were damaged at Dombivli station, and there was rioting at Kalyan station as well.
The rioters went on a rampage, setting afire vehicles including police vehicles, vandalising rail property and pelting stones in the chaos that lasted more than six hours. It completely paralysed the Main Line and the Harbour Line between 9.30 am and 3.30 pm, while trains were running late up to 20 minutes on the Western Line. Eighteen people, all from Diva, had been arrested at the time of going to press.
As many as 134 services on the CR suburban line had to be cancelled, and 10 trains were damaged. Railway officials have said that it will take at least a week to normalise services because of the damaged trains.
At least 15 policemen, including an assistant security commandant of the Railway Protection Force had to be rushed to hospital, besides a motorman who was thrashed by the rioters, resulting in the motormen’s union calling a flash strike, plunging an already chaotic day into a complete mess. The trouble started at Diva station around 8 am after rail services were disrupted when the pantograph of a local train broke between Thakurli and Dombivli stations on the slow line an hour earlier, triggering violence by commuters. Several commuters waiting at Diva station blocked the tracks from 8.30 am, resulting in the complete breakdown on both Up (towards CST) and Down (towards Thane) fast tracks.
The situation went completely out of control when police lathi-charged the crowds at Diva. The mob lifted the ATVMs and flung them on the railway tracks even as the railway administration went on Air (electronic media and FM channels) and through public address system, appealing to the passengers to not resort to violence.
Seven ATVMs and three booking counters at Diva station, a level crossing gate boom at Diva level crossing, two booking counters and six ATVMs at Dombivili station, and 10 12-coach trains were damaged.
Stone-pelting started around 10.30 am, resulting in a motormen’s strike after a motorman, R K Chawda, suffered head injuries. Chawda, who was forced to stop the train by the crowds on the tracks, confirmed the protestors resorted to violence after being lathi-charged. “It all started after police starting caning the crowds,” he told. “I was struck on the head and I could hear the cries from the ladies’ compartment. I realised that if I didn’t drive on, someone will get killed and so I started the train,” Chawda said.
A bleeding Chawda took the train to Thane where he was administered first-aid. He refused to leave the train till the journey to CST had been completed, and was later admitted to the Railway Hospital in Byculla. “A few women commuters thanked me at CST, and that gave me the satisfaction of a job well done,” he said.
The Central Railway’s senior public relations officer said, “All services have been restored completely. I appeal to the people not to block railway lines. Stopping trains further derails our efforts to restore services in case of a mishap,” he said.
CR IN NUMBERS
Rs 727 crore CR’s annual losses
Rs 244 crore Amount needed to fix all the back log of tracks and civil engineering issues
Rs 70 crore Money needed to replace the ageing trains and improve infrastructure
1,618 trains run for 21 hours
315 km Total network length from CST-Karjat-Panvel-Kasara
300 km Mandated track renewal per year
110 km Actual length that is renewed in last thee years
240 coaches are more than 32 years old, while the shelf life is 25 years
200 new AC-powered coaches awaiting induction
100 Number of coaches that have not undergone mandatory periodic maintenance
200 Mail/express trains that share the CR tracks every day
3 hours Daily maintenance time
3 entities that use CR as feeder route Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, Mumbai Port Trust and Rashtriya Chemical Fertilisers
4 cement terminals that use CR as a feeder route Mulund, Kalyan, Wadibunder and Kalamboli
Mumbai is India’s only network still running on DC