The suburban railway system claims more lives of civilians in Mumbai than terrorism does in all of India. With more than 3,500 deaths taking place on the city’s railway tracks annually, Mumbai witnesses a tragedy greater in magnitude than the Bhopal gas tragedy – which had claimed more than 2,200 lives – every year, year after year.
Killer Tracks, a report published by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), an NGO and public policy think tank, after three-and-a-half years of research, has revealed these shocking facts about the city’s ‘lifeline.’
The report, unveiled at the Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh on Tuesday, highlighted that 10-12 commuters die, and an equal number of commuters are injured, on the railway tracks every day.
A total of 36,125 people died on the suburban city tracks from 2001 to 2010, according to the report. While 405 people were killed in terrorist attacks in the whole of India in 2013, 3,506 people died and 3,318 others were injured on Mumbai’s tracks in the same year.
Expressing concern over the number of deaths on tracks annually, Sudheendra Kulkarni, president of ORF, said the Union government is ‘insensitive and inefficient’ for not doing anything to address the problem. “The rules in Delhi do not address the plight of people in Mumbai,” said Kulkarni, adding that Mumbai needs a separate and autonomous corporation for railway operations. “Railways have several challenges and burdens at the national level, so the railway ministry is less likely to do anything for the city.”
The report, prepared by Dhaval Desai, senior research fellow of ORF, and transport experts Rishi Aggerwal and Deepa Dinesh, makes several recommendations to reduce deaths on tracks, one of which is immediate implementation of a cyclic timetable that will reduce crowding on local trains by up to 30% and result in addition of services.
Vivek Sahay, former railway board chairman, said the existing timetable was created in 1960, and needed to be replaced with a cyclic one. “Four tracks became available till Virar, but crowding on trains has not reduced. We need to increase the capacity of the existing suburban network,” he said.