Apathy of railways to Mumbai suburban services!
A suo motu public Interest litigation taking cognizance of the accidents caused by the vertical gap between the floor of the coach and the platform surface by the Bombay High Court in January 2014, forced the Indian Railways to raise the requisite heights of all the suburban services platforms on Central and Western Railways for a better safety of commuters in Mumbai.
According to official information, there are 273 platforms on Central Railway and 145 platforms on Western Railway in Mumbai.
In the first phase, as against the target fixed by the Bombay High Court for completion of 83 platforms on Central Railway and 145 platforms on Western Railway to be raised by May 2016, the height of only 50.87 per cent of platforms has been raised, which goes against the directions of the High Court, showing inability of the two zonal railways to implement.
While the Union Ministry of Railways reasons out the limited window of time of 1-3 hours daily and other logistic constraints for undue delay, 124 commuters had died and 564 commuters injured in the Mumbai suburban section during the last ten years. due to the gap between platform and compartment of new coaches of Siemens built by the Integral Coach Factory (ICF), Chennai introduced on the Mumbai Suburban Rail Services.
Various suburban commuters groups/associations maintain that on an average, more than a dozen deaths occur daily, over two dozens get injured with 8,000 to 10,000 human casualties annually, contributed, among others, by horrible distance/gap between platforms and train compartments on the Mumbai Suburban Rail Services.
Looking into compensation claims filed and settled during 2005-15, out of 11032 compensation cases filed in different Benches of the Railway Claims Tribunal, claims have been given only in 7240 cases. It is a sorry state of affairs that 3792 compensation claims which come to 35 percent are still pending.
Whereas, on all India basis, during the last five years alone, the Railways have given an amount of Rs. 13.65 crore as compensation to passengers who died or were injured due to accidental falling from trains. Though the reasons of non-settlement of compensation claims could be manifold, the foremost reason for the rising number of unsettled compensation claims is the non-availability of requisite infrastructure within the railways premises to arrive at a quick decision regarding the death of a passenger due to accidental falling from a train or otherwise. This deficiency has resulted in prolonged litigation for settlement of compensation claims between the injured passenger and dependents of deceased commuters and Railway authorities.
Deficiency of infrastructure is needed to be improved within the premises of railways to avoid any untoward incident resulting in death or injury of a passenger to identify or categorise quickly as a case of accidental falling or an intentional act to enable Railway Claims Tribunal to settle such cases within a time frame. To deal with such deficiency in rail services, a scheme for installation of an adequate number of CCTV cameras at all the strategic locations of railway stations across the country, especially in the overcrowded Mumbai Suburban rail services, under a time-bound programme is called for on a war footing to improve further safety standards.
Considered lifeline of the mega-metropolis, the Mumbai Suburban Rail Services are spread over 465 kilometres, operate more than 2342 train services and carry about 80 lakh commuters daily. It is one of the busiest commuter rail systems in the world with one of the most severe overcrowding. Suburban trains run from 4 AM until 1 AM, with some trains operating up t0 2: 30 AM !