It's not just train cancellations and delays that are bothering Railways this season. Slums near railway tracks are giving nightmares to the Delhi division of the Northern Railways as they pose threat to the safety of train passengers, especially during the foggy weather.
Moreover, the Railways have failed to curb the rising number of unauthorised jhuggies coming up near tracks in the Capital. Trespassing by slum dwellers affects the running of trains.
"Due to low visibility during the foggy season, trespassing by slum dwellers can cause major rail accidents. Many park their bicycles and two-wheelers on tracks. Also, their children are often found playing on railway tracks. An accident is waiting to happen," said a senior official of the Railways.
Besides, cases regarding the theft of railway tracks and fish plates have become common.
But despite the imminent danger, the Railways have failed to act. The number of slums near tracks has been on the rise despite several encroachment removal drives. In the past six months, around 700 people have been mowed down by trains.
"It is not just trespassing cases, theft of railway tracks and fish plates have also been reported from areas where slums are near railway tracks. Incidents of loot, human trafficking and pick-pocketing are common," he added.
Because of the encroachment by slum dwellers, the Railways have not been able to utilise its 250 acre of land worth Rs 20,000 crore approximately, the officer said. There are around 27,000 listed encroachments in Delhi, of which 9,000 are in the safety zone.
"We can't tackle the problem alone. Other agencies like the MCD and Delhi Police also have to come on board," he said.
Many of these unauthorised dwellings have now become pucca and do not restrict to areas of outer Delhi.