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Putting Mumbai back on track

Wednesday, 5 May 2010 - 12:01am IST

Joy over the guilty verdict on Kasab was dampened by the 36 hour-long motormen’s strike. Even on Tuesday morning, citizens found it tough to reach office. Some commuters told team DNA of their experience.

Joy over the guilty verdict on Kasab was dampened by the 36 hour-long motormen’s strike. Even on Tuesday morning, citizens found it tough to reach office. Some commuters told team DNA of their experience.

Expert view
Exposes chinks in infrastructure

A parallel arrangement has to exist, a second line of action which is missing for so long. This shows the government’s lack of interest and concern for the public. A huge amount of money is being spent on infrastructure now, but the Metro and monorail projects should have been implemented long ago in the city. They should have anticipated this situation three decades ago. Regarding the motormen’s demands they should have come to the negotiating table with the government. Going on a strike is a very harsh move. This also shows that the motormen have no regard for law. Tomorrow they may derail a train or disrupt law and order. There has to be some strong action, some fear of the legal process, that must stop the motormen from resorting to such a rash action in future. There are many people who weren’t able to reach home till late night. So rather than punishing the government, the motormen punished the innocent commuters.     
—Jitendra Gupta, member Citizens’ Transport committee

Improve their working conditions
Compare an airline pilot and train motorman. A pilot is working in a comfortable cabin, has a co-pilot, a crew and carries 200 passengers on a flight time of an hour and a half. The rest room and other facilities are really comfortable. The motorman is running a train alone, carrying as many as 5,000 passengers, in a hostile environment, has to stop and start the train almost every three to five minutes. The individual has to be alert all the time, has no assistant. He is always at the receiving end of public ire for delays. Rest rooms and other facilities are pathetic. Surely the railways, which carries 65 lakh daily commuters, could have met motormen’s reasonable demands much earlier. Two months ago, motormen had postponed their ‘strike’. What measures did the management take to avert such a crisis? Now every political party has expressed their opinion on an issue that is simply an administrative one. The MNS threatened dire consequences against the striking motormen, we simply don’t seem to be having a crisis management mechanism.
—Sudhir Badami, transport analyst

State needs contingency plan
Mumbaikars were stranded on the road till late night on Monday eventhough it wasn’t their fault. We cannot call it a natural disaster as it was entirely a man-made one. This could have been avoided by the authorities. The strike was not sudden and the motormen’s union has been pressing for their demand for a long period of time. Strike is a democratic way of showing protest. Employees have to resort to it, if the authority doesn’t listen. The management could have avoided such a situation by initiating talks with the union earlier. I don’t think the motormen were wrong this time and they have reasonable demand. However, the mode of protest was wrong. When the management was aware of such a brewing crisis they should have provided some back-up service for the commuters. Normally 60 per cent of BEST buses ply on the road, the authority should maintain a stock of reserve vehicles, which can be pressed into service, during such situations. Assistance from private transport bus contractors could have been sought.     —Jagdeep Desai, architect and urban planner

Government actually mismanaged situation
I left office by 6.30 pm from Nariman Point on Monday and spent more than one hour on Churchgate station. All the trains were being cancelled hence we had no other option but go back to Nariman Point and hunt for a cab. There was chaos at Marine Drive, we somehow managed to reach only Mumbai Central and from there we decided to board an outstation train and it took us a long time. We only reached Borivli after 12.30 am. If the government had made any commitment they should have fulfilled it.
—Jayesh Chalishhazarwala, Kandivali to Churchgate

Authorities misjudged extent of damage
The fact that the union had to strike shows the government doesn’t care for their needs. So, we can say that the crisis is something which everyone was expecting. However there were no alerts from regular commuters. This strike was being taken lightly by the authorities and correct information wasn’t passed onto local commuters. I left late from office and got stranded at Churchgate station at night. They could have spread the message of alternative routes arranged by them on time via social networks.
—Jason Menezes, Borivli to Churchgate

Mumbaikars don’t get good amenities
I had no idea that commuting from home to my work place could become a nightmare. According to me it was fault of both motormen and the railway authorities who couldn’t sort out the problems of motormen. Mumbaikars get hefty taxes, but they don’t get any worthwhile service. We have to travel in an undignified way. Being a girl, I was unable to run behind speeding buses and stand with the unruly crowd. With buses getting overcrowded, autos started making capital in this crisis. This made the situation worse.    
—Reshma Khan, Kurla to Vashi

No effort was made to manage crowds
It was tough for me to travel from Matunga to Saki Naka, Andheri to my work place. I had to spend 2 hours at the station, the commute normally takes me 45 minutes only. I don’t think motormen were really responsible for such a crisis. Authorities should have taken the threat seriously and they could have avoided the strike by giving some assurance, with a deadline for resolving motormen’s demands. Moreover there was no crowd management at the bus stops. Authorities did nothing to make the problems of commuters easy. 
—Zubin Gala, Matunga to Andheri

State must act more responsibly in future
Local trains are Mumbai’s lifeline and when it comes to a halt, the whole city stops. I think, the motormen need to be treated well. Otherwise we have seen the consequences. Authorities should act more responsibly. They need to take stock of the situation, come up with solutions, so that we need not go through such a crisis in future. Unlike others, I was lucky as I got a car sent from home, but it was a tiresome journey as it took hours to each home, because of the traffic jams.                                                       —Priscilla Guite, Ghatkopar to CST

Extended suburbs have no other option
The government should surely look into demands of the motormen earlier. The motormen as well as the government are responsible for the chaos that the city is witnessing. Local trains are the lifeline for commuting in Mumbai. Moreover for people commuting from extended suburbs like Mira Road and Bhayander there is no other mode of travel available. The autorickshaw drivers tend to charge more during such an emergency. On Monday, I managed to reach home by 8 pm, but the trains were packed to capacity.
—Astileen Rozario, Bhayander to Lower Parel

Govt should have initiated negotiations
I left office by 7 pm, at my usual time, on Monday. There were trains arriving at Elphinstone Road station after a gap of half an hour and they too were crowded. I went back to the office and decided to go by a car with other colleagues. As expected there was a lot of traffic and congestion on the roads and we were stuck helplessly in a traffic jam for a long time. I reached home only after 11 pm. However, the government shouldn’t blindly give in to the demands of the motormen, but they can always resolve the issue through talks.
—Akshay Sejpal, Kandivli to Elphinstone

Crawl back home was extremely exhausting
I left work at 6:45pm last evening and reached home at around 1:30am. All this because our authorities weren’t able to handle the situation well. There were no trains and even no other public transport, so I had to depend on taxis which were demanding a huge sum of money to take us to our destination. I must have spent around Rs500 yesterday to reach my home from office at Powai. I think the reason for this whole situation is the fact that we don’t treat our motormen with the respect they eserve.
—Snehal Nayak, Dombivli to Kanjur

Rail employees were right in their way
It was very difficult, tiring, chaotic and expensive day for me. Eventhough I stay 20 minutes away from my office, I had to spend more than an hour to reach home on Monday. Yesterday it took me one and a half hours to reach office. This is completely the responsibility of our government who couldn’t think of the large number of commuters. The crisis was avoidable if the talks were initiated to resolve their issues earlier. While the strike was not the right way to protest, the personnel have a point and legitimate grievances.
—Preeti Jadhav, Malad to Santacruz

Had to shell a huge sum to reach work
I had to spend extra money unnecessarily for travelling for four hours. Eventhough, the strike caused major problems to commuters, I don’t think the motormen were the real culprits. I think their demands were right and like others they also have a right to fight for it. Authorities should have made alternative arrangement for commuters to reach at their destination. I was lucky enough that I reached my home on Monday. However yesterday there were so many people, who were stranded at the station.
—Rahul Bhatnagar, Thane to Santacruz

Transport body did excellent rescue job
The last two days made me realise why trains are called the ‘lifelines’ of the city. We faced problems due to the strike, but come to think of it, the motormen had to use this way as their last resort to get the government’s attention towards their problems like working hours, salary and other facilities which aren’t being looked into. Even though they had given a week’s notice before going on strike, no government official paid heed to that. And now we are facing the brunt of it. The city’s officials handled the situation adeptly.
—Janhavi Bellare, Thane to CST

There was confusion reigning everywhere
The motormen are justified in asking for a raise in their salary. Their demands need to be looked into. They too have families to support and work consistently otherwise. The main problem is that there is no other means of transportation in the city. Getting a bus beyond Thane is extremely difficult; travelling from Mumbai to Kalyan is very expensive. The frequency of buses needs to improve as they are always crowded. So connectivity is a major issue in the city. Also on Monday there were no proper announcements made.    
—Pushpa Chauhan, Kalyan to Parel

Deliberately caused inconvenience
Buses were overcrowded and people were absolutely helpless. The motormen are responsible for the crisis, they wanted to create chaos. They did not start their strike in the morning, people travelled to work. Motormen made sure that they didn’t have a way to get back home; they simply wanted to prove a point, at the cost of inconveniencing thousands of commuters. Presence of policemen and security personnel ensured that things didn’t get out of hand. The authorities should have anticipated the situation before hand.
—Diksha Raghani, Churchgate to Santacruz

Application of ESMA came very late
Somewhere government is responsible for this crisis; they need to be strict against motormen. I don’t think that the authorities could have handled it any better. The strike was supported by political parties to pressure the government and law enforcement authorities. Our ability to manage a crisis is very poor. They don’t have the knowledge to handle a crisis. Applying an act like Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) came late in the day. We need concrete measures to avoid such a crisis.                —Nirav Gada, Churchgate to Matunga

No coordination between various depts
When I left my office on Monday at 7pm, I was surprised that there were no trains at Churchgate station for Andheri. Taxis were also not ready to go anywhere eventhough I waited for at least 45 minutes on the road. Then I asked one of my friends to drop me at Andheri, but I was stuck in traffic till 11.30 pm. At night I saw many people were walking on the road to reach at their destination, but there weren’t enough buses, taxis or autorickshaws. On Monday, it was quite apparent that our government was prepared to handle such a crisis.
—Radhika S, Andheri to Colaba

Traffic cops simply disappeared
It was completely the fault of railway authorities that they underestimated the threat. Moreover the government didn’t provide enough alternative means of commuting by increasing the number of buses. It was quite revealing yesterday that there was no crisis management mechanism at all in the Mumbai. I had to spend two extra hours and a huge sum of money to reach office. Moreover the government’s effort to manage the burgeoning crowds was a complete disaster. Even at night there were no traffic police.
—Prakash Pawar, Jogeshwari to Santacruz

Politicians don’t understand our plight
The government is entirely responsible for this, as they need to understand that motormen are not getting enough comfort for the hard work they put in. They take great pain and risk life and limb for us. They could have definitely handled this at an earlier stage. I’m not saying we should have given in to all their demands, but at least the government should have shown some regard for their employees. The government’s response to the problem was appalling. All the roads and highways were blocked.                     —Sowmya Jagannath, Parle to Churchgate

Rumours wrecked havoc on psyche
While train services collapsed in the morning. Passengers were clueless, as trains were stranded between stations. Motormen were non-committal in his responses and didn’t give any answer about when the services would resume. The police deployed at the station were equally clueless, to the point of discouraging people from travelling long distances like Malad. The situation could have been handled better, if clear announcements were made on time. Many rumours were floating, adding to the panic among commuters.
—Sohini Mitter, Churchgate to Malad

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