Mumbai stampede: Hold railway officials responsible for stampede, says Retired judge Vidyasagar Kanade

Mumbai: The tragic stampede at city’s Elphinstone railway station has shaken the conscience of every citizen of Mumbai. The incident that took place on Friday could have been avoided, had the railway authorities taken preventive measures, is what Bombay High Court’s retired judge Justice Vidyasagar Kanade thinks. He says that the officials of railways must be held accountable.

Justice Kanade, who retired recently, had extensively heard several Public Interest Litigations (PILs) pertaining to railways and the poor facilities it offers to its commuters. In his more than 15-years tenure, Justice Kanade had passed several orders and issued several directions to the railways to ensure it provides better infrastructure and other amenities to the citizens. But after this incident, Justice Kanade thinks all the efforts have gone in vain. He says, “The officials are on their toes only till the matters are on board (of HC) but once the matters go off the board, these officials hardly make any compliance to these orders.”

“Now, the Railway Minister’s statement saying that audits of all stations would be done is of no use. Had they taken proper steps before hand, such a tragedy could have been avoided. It seems the officials wait for an accident to happen and only after people lose their lives, they get up and think of doing something. This is the most unfortunate and callous attitude of the officials,” Justice Kanade added.

Justice Kanade said that the “politicans” no longer take their “vote banks” in Mumbai seriously. He said, “Mumbai’s citizens are the workforce that generates capital. I had requested the then railways minister to personally look into the issue of city’s local trains. But now I am sorry to say that the votebank (of Mumbaikars) is not mattering to the politicians.”

According to Justice Kanade, before introducing the multi-crore “bullet train” project, the government must ensure that its existing infrastructure is in a good state. He said, “I am not against bullet train rather it is the need if the hour. But at the same time, the must ensure that the local trains are developed well so that incidents like this can be avoided.”

Giving suggestion to the government and the railways, Justice Kanade said, “Just like crowds are controlled and monitored in temples, the railways too can undertake such a task. Also, they can consider introducing a mechanism like Metro and Mono rails, wherein each commuter is checked before boarding of the train. They have this system of ticket checking before boarding so no one can travel without ticket. This will surely reduce the crowd.”

Justice Kanade has also suggested that the railways should widen the century old bridges, most of which are in dilapidated conditions. “The railways should deploy its police to regulate the crowd on platforms and bridges. They must also remove all the hawkers ruthlessly and also ensure that the bridges are widened,” Justice Kanade added.

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