Mumbai stampede was a disaster waiting to happen
MUMBAI: In the last two decades, Lower Parel, Mumbai’s former mill district, has turned into an office hub.
The textile factories have been replaced by high-rise office towers. Banks, media corporations, retail companies have moved into the area, attracted by the relatively lower rent compared to the old business hubs. Lakhs of office workers now commute to the area, most of them by the suburban trains on the Western and Central Railways.
Their only other option — which is equally agonising — is to spend hours travelling by road. Apparently, nobody told the Indian Railways about the big changes in the area.
Lower Parel is served by Parel and Currey Road stations on the Central Railway and Elphinstone Road, Lower Parel stations on the Western Railway. These stations were built during the first phase of railway construction in the country in the first half of the 20th century. At that time, the area was filled with textile mills and chawls that housed the workers. Stations were not made to handle a heavy rush of commuters.
When the area started to change in the 1990s, the railways and the city’s government looked away. The government allowed developers to construct highdensity office complexes without bothering to think how workers would reach there. This is clearly a planning loophole. The result is that the stations are now among the most crowded and dangerous in the city.
Commuters using Parel and Elphinstone Road stations will tell you there are stampede-like situations daily. Parel has not been remodelled though there has been talk about it for decades.
This road turns in a septic water pool when it rains because the railways forgot to build storm water drains along the lane’s periphery.
The only addition has been a pedestrian bridge at the northern end of the station, which few commuters use as it goes nowhere. An extra platform is being constructed to ease the crowding but work has been exasperatingly slow. The railway’s solution to the crowding has been to station two constables with lathis to herd crowds.
While millions risk injury and death, senior railway babus travel south in government cars to their quarters in Badhwar Park.
They, and politicians who represent the city, have not told the Railway Board about the risks faced by commuters. Babus and netas will have to be punished for the criminal negligence.
A woman grieves for her relative killed in the stampede at Elphinstone station in Mumbai on Friday. The mishap led to the death of 22 people and injured several others. ANSHUMAN POYREKAR/HT
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