MUMBAI: Observing that passengers in local trains are carried worse than cattle, Bombay high court on Wednesday asked Railways whether it has been able to stop train-fall and track-trespassing deaths.
“It is your responsibility and duty. You must not depend on the court’s direction to save the lives of people,” said Chief Justice Devendra Kumar Upadhyaya and Justice Amit Borkar, hearing a PIL that highlighted the possible causes for high fatalities on suburban railways and gave suggestions to salvage the situation.“I feel ashamed. The manner in which the passengers in local trains are made to commute,” said the CJ.
The petition said Mumbai suburban railway, which is the second busiest globally after Tokyo, sees over 2,000 deaths annually, with a high 33.8 fatality rate. It also stated that while there is phenomenal growth in the number of passengers, infrastructure at railway stations is old and crumbling.
Advocates Rohan Shah and Surabhi Prabhudesai, for petitioner Yatin Jadhav, argued that Railways disowns deaths due to crossing tracks, falling from train or slipping between platform-train gaps and terms them “untoward incidents”.
Shah said: “Going out to pursue your vocation or to college is like going to war.” He also submitted news reports, including of a stampede-like situation to board a train at Kalyan station.
Western Railway’s advocate Suresh Kumar said that since 2008, it has complied with directions in an earlier PIL in which guidelines for Railways, including fixing platform-train gaps, and HC was satisfied with the steps taken. The judges then asked if Railways have been able to stop train-fall and trespassing deaths. They said WR cannot take a refuge by saying it carries 33 lakh passengers daily. “You have to change your attitude and mind,” the chief justice said. “This time we are going to make the officials accountable… You are carrying human passengers like cattle. Perhaps even worse.”
In the order, the judges said the issue raised in the petition “needs urgent attention” of all concerned, specially higher-ups, including a Railway Board member and zonal safety commissioners. HC directed WR and Central Railway general managers to file an affidavit in reply to the PIL, and list measures to check mishaps. After receiving the replies, “HC may consider setting up a committee of commissioners/body of experts to conduct a study to suggest measures for meeting the challenge of daily train passenger deaths in Mumbai”.