Taking cognizance of a recent accident in which a man fell to his death from an overcrowded local train, the Bombay high court on Wednesday came down heavily on the Central and Western Railways, the state government and the Union railway ministry.
A bench of Justices Naresh Patil and SB Shukre has now asked these authorities to list out all measures taken to address the issues of over-crowding and increasing number of accidents on the local trains.
The bench has also directed them to apprise the Advocate General (AG) of Maharashtra of all the previous orders of the High Court in the case. The bench has told the AG to take cognizance of the orders.
The bench was hearing a bunch of public interest litigations on lack of infrastructure and security arrangements on the city’s local train network, and the issue of women’s safety aboard trains.
“The overcrowding on the local trains has gone out of control. Surprisingly, though, none of the concerned authorities are taking the issue seriously. These deaths will continue unless the railways and the state together take immediate steps. People are dying on the trains and the tracks daily and the authorities cannot continue to keep their eyes shut. If you act now and succeed in saving even just one such life, your actions will make a large difference,” the bench said.
The bench also observed that the Central and the Western Railways, by themselves, were incapable of coming up with solutions, and sought to know what the union railways ministry had done in the past decade to improve the city’s local rail network.
The bench also asked the state what it was doing to introduce new and alternate modes of transport in the city.
“The situation has gotten so bad that the state and the union ministry must work together. It is wrong to impose the entire burden on the Central and Western Railways. What has the ministry done in all these years? Will it be able to list out a single step it has taken to aid the locals? Why aren’t the Mumbai locals your [the ministry’s] priority? After all, Mumbai is the commercial capital of the country,” the bench said.
The local rail authorities informed the bench that they were going to set up medical centres inside railway station premises; the Central Railways would have 15 such centres by next year.
The counsel for the railways also told the bench that the AG has called for a meeting with all standing counsels in the High Court on Thursday morning. The railways’ counsel said he would apprise the AG of the state’s orders.
The HC has now posted the matter for hearing on December 16, and sought an action taken report from the railways.