Questions aplenty asked on safety of railway commuters in Navi Mumbai

There are concerns about safety of passengers in Navi Mumbai railway stations including insufficient GRP officials, guards provided only in two of the four women compartments, an ambulance stationed only at Vashi and Nerul stations
Staircases leading to a platform in Navi Mumbai railway stations do not have CCTV cameras, complain officials and commuters, raising passenger safety concerns. (BACHCHAN KUMAR/HT PHOTO)
Staircases leading to a platform in Navi Mumbai railway stations do not have CCTV cameras, complain officials and commuters, raising passenger safety concerns. (BACHCHAN KUMAR/HT PHOTO)
Published on Nov 25, 2021 06:27 PM IST
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ByPranab Jyoti Bhuyan, Navi Mumbai

The murder of a 29-year-old man from Kharghar at Mankhurd railway station earlier this week has raised several questions about the safety of the railway commuters on harbour line in general, more so in Navi Mumbai.

Most of the stations in Navi Mumbai do not have sufficient Government Railway Police (GRP) officials while guards are provided only in two of the four women compartments. An ambulance is stationed only at Vashi and Nerul stations while the other stations like Panvel, despite having a daily footfall of over one lakh commuters, have no government ambulance.

The absence of Emergency Medical Rooms (EMR) and insufficient CCTVs are other causes for concern, claimed commuter unions. According to the railway sources, on an average, 250 people die and several others suffer injuries in train accidents in the Satellite City every year.

In the recent incident that occurred in the wee hours of Sunday last, the thief first snatched the victim’s mobile phone at knife-point inside a moving train near Sanpada and later stabbed him when the latter tried to retrieve it at Mankhurd station. There were no police officials to protect him at Mankhurd station and he succumbed to his injuries.

Commuters alleged that they have never spotted any patrolling team in Navi Mumbai. Shridhar Patil, a 41-year-old resident of Nerul, said, “I work on the evening shift in Mumbai and return home at night. I have never come across a patrolling team on the platforms.”

There are 17stations in Navi Mumbai but only three (Vashi, Belapur and Panvel) have railway officials to attend to the commuters in the mornings and evenings. At the other 14 stations, they have officials only to sell tickets and handle the train operations during those hours, and hence they cannot help the commuters with first aid or with an ambulance (if required).

Insufficient ambulances and medical facilities are other serious issues. Only Vashi and Nerul stations have ambulances to carry the injured commuters to nearby hospitals. The other stations are still dependent on private ambulances.

“Panvel is the busiest railway station in Navi Mumbai and sees over one lakh footfalls every day. Apart from the trains of the harbour line, nearly 50 long-distance trains heading to Pune, Goa and the southern states pass through this station. Even then the authorities have not provided us with an ambulance,” an official at Panvel railway station said.

In view of the frequent train accidents and fatalities, the Bombay High Court, in 2011, had ordered the Railways to open EMRs near all major stations. In Navi Mumbai, no station has EMR except Panvel. The EMR developed outside Vashi station for that purpose has been lying deserted for the past two years due to lack of manpower.

The GRP officials said that inadequate manpower is also the reason why they cannot provide sufficient guards in the ladies’ compartments and on the platforms.

Vishnu Kesarkar, senior inspector of Vashi GRP, said, “On Monday, the GRP hired 2,000 home guards for the entire Mumbai. Of these, 175 will be allotted to us. With this added manpower, we’ll deploy at least three guards on the platforms of each station and three guards on the ladies compartments of each train in the mornings and at nights.”

According to Kesarkar, the commuters in Navi Mumbai are more vulnerable in the mornings and at nights as trains are mostly empty during these hours. “Most of the criminals who snatch phones, lift bags or steal wallets and other valuables from commuters in Navi Mumbai are residents of Mankhurd and Govandi slums. We keep conducting combing operations in those places and have externed many of the criminals.”

Shivaji Sutar, chief PRO of Central Railway (CR), on the other hand, said they don’t have any plan to increase the manpower. “For the overall management, our strategy is to minimise manpower and maximise machinery. So, we have asked the counter operators to work as depot managers in the evenings and at nights. We are trying to start a few more EMRs in Navi Mumbai but not getting response from anyone to operate them,” he said.

Each railway station in Navi Mumbai has 32 to 48 CCTV cameras. However, that number is not sufficient to cover the entire premises. An official from Vashi station said, “We have 48 cameras in our station premises, but they do not cover our staircases. So, if a thief snatches a bag from a commuter or attacks someone at the staircase, we will have no clue.”

Bhakti Dave, president of Panvel Pravashi Sangh, said, “Last week, we met a few senior railway officials and raised the matter of CCTV cameras along with the other important issues. They assured us of doing something about them soon.”

Kesarkar said, “Following the instructions of our seniors, RPF officials and we recently conducted a survey to understand the need for extra cameras at each station. We hope the authorities concerned will install the extra cameras soon.”

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Sunday, December 05, 2021