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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