Mumbai says a prayer for victims of Elphinstone Road stampede

Hindustan Times | By, Mumbai
Sep 29, 2018 11:18 PM IST

Victims’ families and friends, railway staff and politicians conduct candlelight march; relatives of victims demand Railways offer jobs to nearest kin, get political backing

A year after the tragedy that still haunts many Mumbaikars, the city paid homage to the victims of the Elphinstone Road station stampede, along with survivors, the families and friends of the victims, railway staffers and political leaders.

Commuters and relatives pay homage to victims who died in the stampede at Elphinstone Station last year on 29 Sept .(HT Photo)
Commuters and relatives pay homage to victims who died in the stampede at Elphinstone Station last year on 29 Sept .(HT Photo)

On September 29, 2017, a stampede occurred on the narrow staircase of a foot over bridge (FOB) at the station (which has since been renamed Prabhadevi). Twenty-three people lost their lives and 39 were injured. The tragedy pushed the railway authorities to build two new bridges at the station, which opened to the public earlier this year.

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Relatives of the victims lit candles along the staircase, took out a candle march and said prayers for the departed at midnight, between Friday night and Saturday twilight. As of Saturday morning, citizens have paid floral tributes and lit candles at the site of the stampede.

For survivors, the station brings back terrible memories even though it bears few physical traces of the incident. One of the youngest survivors, 21-year-old Shilpa Vishwakarma said that the incident gave her new perspective on life. Vishwakarma was unable to walk for days because of her injuries. She is now preparing for medical school.

“Every day while passing here, I remember the incident my heart beats faster,” said Pradeep Bagwe, a resident of Elphinstone road. Bagwe and his wife were on their way to office and got trapped on the staircase. They almost suffocated and were hospitalised for almost five days.

Relatives of the victims expressed anger at the state of the infrastructure at the station before the tragedy. “Railways have constructed two new bridges at the station after the mishap, but several lives could have been saved if the railway administration had acted prior,” said Anand Acharya, whose niece, Meena Walhekar, died in the stampede.

Although no official program was organised by the railway administration, divisional railway manager of Western Railway’s Mumbai division, Sanjay Mishra paid homage to the victims, along with other railway staffers and officers. “It was an unfortunate incident and it should not happen again anywhere,” said Mishra.

Some political leaders also offered tributes. Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee spokesperson Sachin Sawant participated in the march that was organised by the relatives of Walhekar, who was an officer at Kamgar Kalyan Mandal at Elphinstone Road.

Shiv Sena had organised a homage program outside the station in which Sena’s member of parliament from south-central Mumbai, Rahul Shewale, paid a floral tribute to the victims. “After the stampede, the railway has done a lot of development, but those are limited to Parel and Prabhadevi stations, but several stations on the suburban network are still vulnerable to such incidents,” said Shewale.

At the end of the Sena program, some party workers clicked selfies and photographs, which were not appreciated by others present.

The government and railways treatment of victims drew some criticism from Opposition leaders. Congress’ Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil asked why railway jobs were not given to relatives of stampede victims. “It is true that the railways did not give any assurance about jobs to victim’s kin, but they are suffering because of the railways’ carelessness and hence it is the moral responsibility of the railways to provide them support,” he said.

Some relatives of victims, who have received compensation from the railways and state government, seconded this demand.

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    Kailash works with the political team and has been covering transport beat for over a decade. He is interested in travel and music.

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