On Friday, a fatal stampede was triggered at Elphinstone Road Railway station of Mumbai, and 22 people lost their lives while 39 were injured. But before emergency help agencies arrived on spot, the residents of Railway colony rushed to rescue people who fell unconscious, saving lives of many.
It was a tragedy waiting to happen. Choked exit points, flocked up railway stations and an unbearable rush whenever any train arrives is a common sight when we talk about Mumbai’s rail travelling. The railway authorities have been adding number of trains so that more people can travel, but nobody has ever looked into developing enough space for the exploding number of passengers each day. Railway network is lifeline of Mumbai’s city life, because it is most accessible, most reliant, road traffic-free and most economic option. That is why Mumbai’s suburban train networks handles 75 lakh regular commuters, every single day. But the squeezed railway stations are nothing less than a virtual death-trap for the huge, huge mass of commuters.
The bursting-at-the-seams network is beginning to break down under the load of ever-increasing numbers. That is why incidents like Elphinstone Road Railway Station stampede occurs. It is not about lack of funds, oh no, it is about indifference, callousness and lack of accountability that causes such incidents. This isn’t the first time that a fatal tragedy has occurred at railway stations of Mumbai, particularly, because of overcrowding – and sadly, it may not be the last. We need better infrastructure and we need better crowd management strategies – and better civil sense, of course.
When on Friday, people were squeezed to death, crushed between humanly crowd and railings at Elphinstone Road, the residents of nearby Lower Parel Railway Colony rushed immediately to pull out those who fell unconscious and were being trampled, they ran to offer water to the injured. The residents launched a little rescue mission of their own, before any of the emergency help agencies were close to arrival. As per the residents of Railway Colony, it took over half an hour after the stampede, for Railway Police to arrive and more than an hour for fire brigade and ambulances – by when, everything was over. The death toll could have been lower, if pro help was made available promptly; but before that, it can be avoided completely with a proper administrative step – we are desperately waiting for that day to arrive. But before that, how many more people will have to die?