The Bombay high court on Thursday rapped the railways for failing to increase height of suburban platforms and thus fill in the dangerous gap between the edges of platforms and the footboard of suburban trains.
“In which part of the world this is happening that there is wide gap between the platform and the train and people are suffering because of it,” the division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Prakash Naik sought to know from railway counsel, advocate Suresh Kumar.
“First of all you don’t require a dozen orders from court to increase height of platforms,” said the judges. “This is so basic that you should have done it 10 years back,” they added referring to the fact that because of the wide gap between the suburban platforms and footboard of trains, accidents were routinely taking place and passengers were losing their lives and limbs.
The judges were irked to note that though the railways were ordered to complete the work of increasing height of platforms and reduce the dangerous gap by March 2015, an affidavit filed by the Western Railway on Thursday revealed that more than half of the work was yet to be completed. “At the end of three years, you have completed work on only 64 out of total 144 platforms,” the judges said.
The judges were also irked to note that the railway administration had done little to make suburban railway stations disable-friendly, and nothing was done at suburban stations in Navi Mumbai, as the railway authorities and CIDCO were passing the buck towards each other. “As far as Navi Mumbai is concerned, the status remains the same even after two years,” said the judges. “You (the railways) are charging ticket fare and therefore you must provide requisite facilities to disabled persons traveling on suburban trains,” the judges told railway counsel Suresh Kumar.
The court was hearing a bunch of public interest litigations one of which is taken up by the court suo-moto after newspaper reports highlighted how 16-year-old Monica More lost both her forearms when she slipped on to tracks through the gap between the edge of the platform and the footboard of the suburban train which she was trying to board at Ghatkopar station.
Another PIL filed by city NGO, India Centre for Human Rights and Law seeking directions to the railway administration to make suburban trains disable-friendly. The NGO has contended that though legal provisions mandate authorities to provide special facilities for disabled persons, no steps were being taken by the railway authorities, and has therefore sought various facilities such as disable-friendly toilets, railings on Foot-Over-Bridges, water taps and booking windows at low height – so as to make those accessible to wheel-chair bound persons.
Box – Courts orders GM to file affidavits, failure would lead to contempt of court
The court has now ordered the General Managers of both – central and western railways to file personal affidavits disclosing within how much time the incomplete work will be completed within their respective jurisdictions. The bench has also sought personal undertakings from senior railway officials responsible for the work, so that they could be hauled for contempt of court, if they fail to complete the work within time.