Mumbai railway station stampede: Panel report not submitted

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Published on Sep 29, 2019 12:46 AM IST
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ByAroosa Ahmed and Kailash Korde, Mumbai

Two years after the stampede that killed 23 people at Elphinstone Road railway station, the panel that was supposed to look into the reasons for the tragedy, is yet to submit its report. Although the Railways have taken some measures to ease overcrowding, little has changed for over 7.5 million commuters in the city.

On September 29, 2017, a stampede broke out on the foot overbridge (FoB) in Elphinstone Road railway station, now renamed Prabhadevi. Twenty-three people lost their lives and 38 were injured. The youngest victim was 11-year-old Rohit Parab.

The day after the tragedy, Railway minister Piyush Goyal formed a three-member panel, led by former vigilance commissioner Pratyanshu Sinha. It was tasked with finding out why there had been delay in building a new FoB at Elphinstone Road station. The panel was also to suggest necessary steps to avoid red-tapism in the future.

According to Railways officers, the panel is yet to submit its report, which should have been completed within three months. The Railway ministry spokesperson was not available for comment.

Goyal also had a 13-hour long meeting with top Railways officials and officials from city authorities on September 30, 2017. At the end of the meeting, it was announced that to avoid bureaucratic delays, the Railways had decided general managers would have the power to spend on safety works. FoBs, platforms and pathways on platform-ends would be treated as safety items of the highest priority, with no budget restrictions. Also, CCTV cameras would be installed inside trains within 15 months.

At present, only a few ladies’ coaches are fitted with CCTV cameras.

Railway authorities also built a wide FoB connecting Elphinstone Road station and Parel station, which was opened to the public in 2018. Three other FoBs were built by the Indian Army at Parel, Currey Road and Khadavli stations. Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation and the Railways announced several FOBs within months of the stampede and the Railways also hired 500 Maharashtra Security Force(MSF) personnel. In October 2017, Central Railways and Western Railways formed 13 multi-disciplinary audit teams that were supposed to suggest measures for de-congestion of suburban stations.

Commuters say little has changed despite these measures.

“Parel is a crowded railway station. Despite a new bridge, passengers prefer to use the old bridge. There used to be Railway staff posted near the bridge during peak hours to ensure commuters move safely. However, there is hardly any Railway personnel near the FoB. The bridge gets overcrowded during peak hours,” said Harshita Sinha, a Dombivli resident.

Two months after the stampede in 2017, the Bombay high court directed the Railways and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to ensure 150 metres outside railway stations are hawker-free. This is no longer implemented and hawkers have returned.

At least 20 FoBs at various stations have not been completed in the past two years. Stations like Andheri, Ghatkopar, Kurla, Jogeshwari and Dombivli remain overcrowded and still don’t have adequately-wide FOBs.

“In the past two decades, all suburban locals were converted into 12 or 15 coaches from the earlier nine coaches, but the station infrastructure has remained the same,” said activist Subhash Gupta.

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