November 26, 2008.
One of the darkest days in Indian history.
It is the day when ten terrorists from the terror group Laskar-e-Taiba (LeT) carried out a series of shooting and bombing attacks for four days killing 164 people and injuring over 300. Attacks were carried out at CSMT Railway station, The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Oberoi Trident Hotel, Nariman House, Cama and Albless Hospital, Leopold Cafe, Metro Cinema and a lane behind the Times of India building and St. Xavier’s College. There were also explosions at Mazgaon and in a taxi at Vile Parle. Ajmal Kasab, the only terrorist who was captured alive was hanged to death by the Mumbai Police. While the nine other terrorists – Ajmal Amir, Abu Ismail Dera Ismail Khan, Hafiz Arshad, Babar Imran, Javed, Shoaib, Nazir Ahmed, Nasir, Abdul Rahman, and Fahadullah – were shot dead during the attacks.
It has been ten years to the horrific attacks but even the mention of the date is enough to give anyone chills.
What happened at the CSMT?
Mumbai’s busiest railway station Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, also called as CSMT, was attacked by two terrorists Ismail Khan and Ajmal Kasab, the only terrorist that was caught alive. Khan and Kasab entered the passenger hall at around 9:30 pm and opened fire using AK-47 rifles. The assault ended at 10:45 pm after killing 58 people and injuring 104. A railway announcer, Vishnu Dattaram Zende saved several lives by alerting the commuters and asking them to leave the station from the back gate.
Cut to 2018…….
Today CSMT, the historic railway station, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site has got several upgrades – not just in terms of security but also to its name – ‘Maharaj’. In terms of security, a lot of CCTV cameras have been installed. Talking about the beautification of the station, the old black roofs at the subway entrances have been replaced with glass roofs to give the entrance a modern look.
In the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, a number of promises were made – some fulfilled and most of them ‘not’. It is difficult to judge where all those promises stand today. 2018 marks the tenth anniversary of the attacks and a lot has happened since then. Most of the stations have been installed with metal detectors and home guards are deployed to monitor those. Well, we are not sure about the later one.
When it comes to security, have we learned our lessons yet? It doesn’t seem so.
We conducted a quick investigation into security arrangements here is what we concluded.
Unmonitored Metal Detectors
At present, there are 14 door frame metal detectors at the CSMT railway station.
Since a lot of money must have been spent to implement measures such as deploying RPF commandoes or installing metal detectors. All seems to be a waste when owing to negligence. At both the entry points of the CSMT station, door frame metal detectors are installed and nearly thousands of people walk through them but there is never a single authority to monitor them. And the other important part is most people don’t even bother to go through them.
The entrance of the long distance out-station trains’ platforms has baggage counters but the security personnel is not bothered whether you check your bags or not. Commuters are seen walking without their bags scanned. There are no signs of hand-held detectors.
At the entrance of the CSMT station near platform number 1, there used to be an RPF booth, which has gone missing since the last few days. But we found a few constables on the busy platform, but they seem to be ‘busy’ on phone. Maybe some important work?
Quick Response Force, Ambulance
An ambulance and Rapid Action Force (RAF) van is parked every day outside the CSMT.
To make matters worse are the hawkers outside the station. We saw hawkers selling t-shirts, earphones, toys and memory cards on the exit towards the subway. After the Elphinstone Road (now Prabhadevi) foot over bridge stampede on September 29, 2017, in which 23 people lost their lives, the civic body has chalked out 150-meter demarcated zones outside railway stations. The interesting fact is that the BMC’s office is located exactly outside the CSMT railway station which is just a few meters away. But who cares?