Mumbai: Even as railway officials claim to be operating maximum suburban trains to ease the hardships of daily commuters in Mumbai, the number of deaths and those injured after falling from trains has gone up in the last one decade, as per an RTI query.
A whopping 25,722 passengers fell from suburban trains (travelling on Western, Central and Harbour suburban services in Mumbai Commissionerate) in last 10 years, of whom 6,989 commuters died while 18,733 survived, said RTI activist Anis Khan quoting a reply received from Government Railway Police (GRP), Mumbai. Despite the authorities’ efforts to curb deaths on tracks, the city’s railway system continues to claim lives at a constant rate. As per data with the Government Railway Police (GRP), nine people have died on the railway tracks every day this year.
In 2005, a total of 494 commuters lost their lives after falling from running trains. This figure went up subsequently in the coming years and reached up to 901 in 2013, up 82 per cent as compared to the death toll in 2005, he said. However, 2014 saw a marginal decline with 797 deaths reported after falling from suburban trains, he said.
Kalyan, Kurla, Thane, Borivli, and Vasai are the railway stations, which have recorded the most fatalities near them. These people were found dead after falling from a train, committing suicide, or having been pushed by someone.
Mr Khan said the railway administration has “completely failed” to provide safe and comfortable journey to the people. “The basic reason why people are dying like animals is that railway officers have entirely failed to comprehend the hardships of the commuters…and the basic reason behind this (inability to comprehend the problems) is that officers never travel in local trains,” he said. Most of the passengers fall or slip from the running trains when they struggle to get into a coach and fail to enter it or get dashed against a pole near the railway tracks, he said. “Until and unless officers do not feel the pinch of travelling in overcrowded local trains, such deaths are not going to stop,” Mr Khan said.
As per the statistics provided under the RTI query, apart from 6,989 passengers who died after falling from trains, 22,289 passengers succumbed while crossing the tracks (trespassing). A railway officer, on condition of anonymity, said, “This is true that number of cases of falling of passengers has gone up, but it also includes those cases when many people lost their lives while performing stunts.” “But sensing the gravity of the cases, constant announcements are made not to board or alight from running trains,” he added.
Railway activist Sameer Zaveri, who was also a railway victim once, said overcrowding is the biggest problem at hand. “People buy tickets but still have to stand on footboards. There are no safety measures for them. Moreover the High Court has asked the railways to build fences near the tracks to prevent people from entering, but the railways don’t do anything,” he said.
Around 30 per cent of victims’ bodies have to be disposed of by the cops; the families approach much later or the bodies remain unclaimed,” said Rupali Ambure, deputy commissioner of police, GRP, Central Railway. She further added, “We have been creating awareness among commuters to not cross tracks, not travel on footboards, and to take precautions while travelling. We have also written to railways to close all unauthorised entry points that bring one to railway tracks,” said Ambure. 1,679 people were injured this year on the railway tracks.
Chennai groups drum home point to stop train hits in the City
Should you happen to come upon a band playing music at a railway station, don’t look around for cameras. A film crew hasn’t turned the station into a set: it’s a live show that the Government Railway Police hopes will create the awareness needed to put the brakes on train accidents.
Officers of the GRP hit upon the idea after a study they conducted on railway tracks in city and suburbs showed that at least 35 people died in such accidents on a single stretch, between Beach and Chengalpet, in a month.
Train hits accounted for many as 2,750 deaths across the state in a year. The study also helped the GRP officers identify 20 accident prone spots, including at Korukkupet, Perambur, Avadi, Ambattur and Mambalam, where the most deaths took place.
When distribution of fliers to spread awareness did not appear to have yielded any results, the officers tied up with bands who agreed to play small shows on railway platforms to draw train users together as groups.
“The bands penned songs that include safety tips and set them to some peppy music from popular film tracks to attract the attention of train passengers,” Egmore DSP V Ponramu said. “The lyric makes it clear that it is illegal to cross railway tracks by any means.”
The bands have pulled in crowds at Mambalam, Guindy, Egmore and Chennai Central, he said, with people taking a short break to hear them despite being in a hurry. “So I would think the message is getting across,” the DSP said.
The GRP have also identified places where commuters cross tracks and erected new walls to prevent them from doing so. “We have posted two policemen at each of these locations,” a senior GRP officer said. “They will work in two shifts of eight hours each .”
The efforts of the GRP officers seem to be paying off. Regular train users report that there has been a sharp decline in the number of people they see crossing railway tracks in the city.