At the outset, the Pravaas Adhikar Andolan Samiti (PAAS) would like to compliment dna for taking a major initiative in focusing attention on the plight of 75 lakh daily local train commuters. On December 10, 2007 when PAAS called for a boycott of the local trains to protest the inhuman travelling conditions, the response was massive. The vast scale of response was an indication of the public anger. However, not much has changed since 2007. If anything, the travelling conditions have worsened.
The travel in suburban trains is becoming more dangerous by the day. The number of passengers in a train during the peak-hour is sometimes three to four times its carrying capacity. Passengers fall off running trains and fall onto tracks while trying to board or when the train is in motion. Deaths and loss of limbs have become a daily occurrence.
And railway authorities do not seem to be bothered. The railway minister recently advised people to opt for buses instead of local trains. He must realise that suburban trains are the life-lines of the city.
As long as it operates the suburban system, Indian Railways cannot shirk the responsibility of meeting the needs of all the commuters who choose to travel by these trains.
Lack of affordable housing in the city has been pushing millions of people into the distant suburbs along the existing railway lines. Therefore, there is no escape from rapidly increasing the capacity of the existing system.
Expansion of railway lines and train services under the Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP) has been too little and too slow. The 'quarrel' between the Railways and the state government is just a show being enacted to confuse the people. In fact, all sections of the ruling establishment pursue a similar policy. None of them is committed to expanding and improving public transport. Only a united movement by all commuters will force a reversal of this policy of criminal negligence towards people's misery.
Promises remain on paper
Much of the infrastructure development promised for the suburban train system has remained on paper. Two additional lines between Thane and Diva, two additional lines between Kurla and CST, one additional line between Borivli and Mumbai Central, two additional lines between Virar and Dahanu Road, additional Harbour Line from CST to Panvel, new lines between Vasai Road and Panvel, elevated railway from Churchgate to Virar.…. there isn't any dearth of development plans.
But, the Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC) has not been able to deliver much in terms of actual infrastructure development. The Railway Board must conduct an immediate assessment of all projects envisaged for the Mumbai suburban sector and implement all of them on a war-footing.
All these are genuine requirements of the commuters and the railway authorities are duty-bound to fulfil them. In the present situation, however, they can be achieved only if all commuters unite and raise their voices. It is high time the authorities stopped treating commuters like animals.
Common demands of the Mumbai commuters
Increase the number of services on a war-footing on all suburban routes. Procure new rakes.
All local trains on Western, Central, Harbour and Thane-Vashi routes must have 15 coaches.
The platforms in all stations must be extended to suit 15 coach trains.
Start suburban train services (EMU) on the Dahanu Road—Vasai—Diva—Panvel route.
Stop the practice of late-running of trains. Resolve the problems in the signalling system and deploy sufficient number of running staff.
Adopt comprehensive commuter safety measures.
Conduct survey of platform heights urgently at all stations and make adjustments wherever necessary.
Avoid the danger of stampedes; build adequate number of foot over-bridges and subways.
Provide 24-hour ambulance service at all stations.
Conduct safety audits of all stations and put in place accident-prevention measures.
Provide necessary passenger amenities at all stations.
* Ensure safety of women in local trains. Ladies coaches must remain reserved for 24 hours. Police personnel must be deployed in ladies coaches without fail.
(The author is convenor of Pravaas Adhikar Andolan Samiti, an organisation that champions the cause of local train commuters).