Mumbai : Although the railway budget caters to the entire country, Mumbaikars have a point when they feel that they have been given step-motherly treatment in it.
Where else in the world do 7.5 million commuters travel an average of 60 km a day in such inhuman conditions? Anywhere else, this would have led to a revolt but in Mumbai, these people form the country’s most disciplined work force.
Only the Mumbaikar can catch the irony in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement that the railways have been run in an ad hoc manner. Look at the way the Mumbai commuter is treated. He travels in trains, several of which are three decades old and derail or break down from time to time. The railways don’t deem it fit to make announcements at such times.
Cobwebs can be seen even in the first class compartments, the seats are uncomfortable, there is no ventilation, the compartments are full of ugly, illegal posters, the tracks are used as an open-air toilet by the slums that are allowed to proliferate. But the toilets meant for commuters, even at CST and Churchgate stink to high heavens. In the rains, compartments leak.
It is the lifeline of the city but four commuters die every day after falling off crowded trains. The high court had to direct the railways to ensure prompt medical attention in such cases.
Look at the condition of the railway stations. They are full of filth and lack basic amenities. The platforms are uneven. There is a huge gap between the footboard and the platform and several commuters have died or were maimed because of it. The railways remained in denial till the high court ordered them to set things right.
The railways have been talking of an air-conditioned local train for more than five years now but no one knows when they will materialise. Can the railways not introduce forced ventilation? Why can’t Mumbaikars get these simple things? If this is not being treated in an ad hoc manner, what is?
Anywhere else in the world, a city network catering to 7.5 million local commuters a day would have been made into a separate railway zone but here in Mumbai it is divided between the Western Railway and Central Railway. It is the way the Britishers left it and the railway authorities do not want to disturb their turf, even if millions suffer.
The Modi government should have sensed the sentiments of the Mumbai commuters after its faux pas on the sharp hike in season tickets. Instead, it seems to be punishing the Mumbai commuter.