On September 29 (Friday), a major tragedy struck as foot over bridge (FOB) connecting Central railways Parel station and Western railways Elphinstone Road railway station saw a stampede, which killed over 23 people (at the time of writing) and has left over 30 people grievously injured. The mayhem happened around 11 am, which is the peak hour for the Mumbaikars and this unwanted tragedy has left many questions about the civic infrastructure of the city.
Mumbai, which is the financial capital of India, industry and commerce hub of India, largest metro city and city that fulfills dream has been seeing mishaps after mishaps in recent times. From heavy rainfall (where city comes to a standstill) to building collapses to potholes, civic apathy has taken over Mumbai and people have no choice, but to get on with their lives because nothing will change and despite contributing large amount of taxes to the GDP, Mumbai will always face hurdles on day to day basis and we (Mumbaikars) don’t know where the buck stops and who is accountable for the chronic mess the city finds itself in.
Now coming back to the Elphinstone stampede, which has not only shook the city but also had a major impact elsewhere was totally avoidable as the foot over bridge (build during British regime) in question was too narrow and the station, which sees footfall of nearly 1 lakh people on average and people had complained to the railway officials about the impending disaster. Indian railways, which over the years has faced flak regarding the derailments, accidents, lack of basic amenities and now with FOB not in adequate condition has put a huge question mark over the handling of the ministry. The basic issue of safety and security is non negotiable and Indian railways according to the reports in the media sat on the file regarding the construction of a new bridge connecting Parel and Elphinstone station. If the new bridge had been built, this tragedy could have been totally avoided.
India of the 21st century talks about metro train services, bullet trains, but Mumbai, which sets examples in many ways has been total mess over the last 20 odd years. The maximum city faces problems on a daily basis, with inadequate infrastructure, lack of accountability, politicians passing the buck and overall a neglect of human safety and its existence. The problem arises because our so called elected politicians bicker all the time on petty issues and BMC despite being the richest municipal body in Asia doesn’t address key issues pertaining to its domain and quite frankly has become butt of jokes with its handling of matters on various parameters.
Elphinstone stampede paints a very dark picture of our very own cosmopolitan city, which gets back on its feet after every tragedy, which is resilient, which never gives up but there comes a time when we say enough is enough and Mumbai can no longer be taken for granted. The city is in a complete and total mess and the value of a human life is just worth couple of lakhs and it doesn’t shake our conscience. India is not ready for bullet trains until and unless we get our ancient and archaic railways back on track. Bullet train is not a magic wand that will help vanish our issues and Mumbai has to stand up against the apathy that it has been receiving and the authorities have to take action against the problems, which is plaguing the city.