Mumbai trains claimed more than 20,000 lives in 5 years
MUMBAI: Death on the railway tracks seems to have become a way of life for Mumbai. A query, under the Right to Information Act, has revealed that Mumbaiís lifeline has ended up claiming more than 20,700 lives in the last five years.
Most of the deaths occurred while people were crossing the tracks, sometimes to catch a train, but a significant percentage of commuters died after they were pushed off trains or hit trackside poles while struggling for a square foot of space in overcrowded coaches.
Central Railway, which covers a much wider zone than Western Railway, has accounted for a lionís share of the deaths since 2003; exactly 17,553 lives have been lost on CR tracks from January 2003 to December 2007.
About one in six of these mishaps have occurred when people have failed to maintain even a toehold on overcrowded trains. Exactly 2,784 commuters have died after being pushed off from moving trains.
Add another figure, 153 (which is the number of people who have hit trackside poles and died), and the number of Mumbaikars who have died fighting for space on trains becomes a little more alarming. Ninety more CR commuters have died between January 2003 and December 2007 while trying to catch a train. All of them fell on the track through the gap between the platform and the train and were run over.
WR tracks have accounted for 3,153 deaths between March 2003 and February 2008. This arm of the railways could not quantify the circumstances of the deaths but the figures it furnished to RTI activist Chetan Kothari revealed that most of the deaths here, too, occurred in the most overcrowded stretches.
A huge chunk of the WR deaths occurred in the belt between Jogeshwari and Borivli, where people often find it difficult to get into a crowded coach or get off one.
The stretch between these two stations saw 538 deaths between January 2005 and December 2007.
In CRís case, too, the most crowded stretch around Kurla station (where the Main and Harbour lines of CR converge) accounted for the largest chunk of deaths. Exactly 2,645 commuters have died in this area between 2003 and 2007.
The suburban railway network does a smooth job of ferrying around 70 lakh commuters every day but seems unable to curtail the number of passengers who die on the tracks daily.
Itís not that the railway officials seem overtly perturbed. Commuters are to be blamed for the thousands of deaths, they say.
"Over 10 people die on the tracks every day because of their own negligence. We cannot do much if commuters break the law and cross the tracks even though there are foot-overbridges at every station," a Western Railway official said.
Government Railway Police officials say they conduct regular awareness campaigns but people do not bother to obey the rules. "We book around 5,000 commuters every year for breaking the basic safety rules but they do not seem to learn a lesson," commissioner A K Sharma said.