Elphinstone Road stampede raises questions on safety of Mumbai railway passengers
Staff strength of the GRP remains the same since 1999, while infrastructure at the stations has not been upgraded after 1982mumbai Updated: Oct 03, 2017 09:22 IST
Last Friday’s stampede on the foot overbridge at Elphinstone Road railway station, which cost 23 lives, has once again put forth a question over the safety of passengers who use the complex and densely loaded Mumbai suburban network.
The security of passengers has never been top priority for authorities, according to top officials with the Government Railway Police (GRP) and the Railway Protection Force (RPF), who also point out that infrastructure has not been upgraded since 1982. Also, the staff strength of GRP is woefully short for it to keep an eye on all stations, leave alone controlling a crowd, they said. It has been the same since 1999, according to officers.
Consider this. Phase-1 of the Mumbai Urban Transport Project, saw Rs4,450 crore allocated to relocate 1,500 families, construction of new lines, procurement of new trains and to import new technology. “Funds were not allocated for security or to develop infrastructure,” said a senior IPS officer. The only funds come from the state government, he added.
According to official figures, the Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation Limited (MRVC) – under the Ministry of Railways — made profits for the past two years. Prabhat Sahai, chairman of MRVC, said no project on passenger security has been assigned to them. This is despite the serial train blasts in 2006, which killed 209 people , and had cried out for increased security on the city’s trains.
The blasts saw the railway ministry moot an Integrated Security System (ISS) in 2008. Under ISS, the railway station premises were to be covered under a CCTV system, there would be access control to stations and platforms, a baggage-screening system, a vehicle-scanning system, and an explosive-detection system.The entire system still remains to be implemented, said police sources. Apart from CCTVs being installed, not much progress has been made .
Atul Shrivastav, chief security commissioner, Central Railways, said, “It is not possible to employ baggage and vehicle scanners in suburban stations because of the volume of passengers.” Shrivastav also said, “Unlike metro stations, local suburban stations are not closed structures,which will facilitate modern-day security arrangements.”