Samir Jhaveri (52) is the very epitome of grit. In October 1989 he met with a train accident in which he lost both his legs. Doctors fitted him with artificial legs made with German technology. Instead of ruing his fate, Samir decided to dedicate the rest of his life to help railway accident victims.
Converting his own life-threatening incident into a learning experience, he initiated a public interest litigation in Bombay High Court with the prayer that the railway administration must be directed to provide ambulances and other facilities at all stations so that accident victims get immediate medical help. S Balakrishnan spoke to him about his campaign. Excerpts:
How exactly did you meet with the accident?
On the fateful night, it was raining heavily and there was no foot over bridge at Borivili station in 1989. I had no choice but cross the tracks. It was dark and I did not see the oncoming train. But luckily the train did not dash against my body but it crushed both my legs. That was a turning point of my life. The accident would not have happened if there was a foot over bridge. I decided that something should be done to minimise railway accidents.
How many people die in railway accidents in the suburban section each year?
As per the reply I received to my RTI application from the railway administration, in 2022 about 2,000 were killed and 2,500 were injured. There is tremendous scope for reducing these numbers.
Whom would you blame for this shocking state of affairs?
I will blame the railway administration for its slow response to safety issues. It is spending thousands of crores on fancy projects like bullet trains, renovation of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, etc, but it has no money to ensure safe travel for millions of people who commute on suburban trains.
You filed a PIL on railway safety. What happened to that?
I filed the PIL in 2008 in Bombay High Court and the judges were kind enough to realise the gravity of the issues raised by me and passed a series of orders, which are being implemented by both Central and Western Railways. I must mention here that the lawyers fought the case totally pro bono. My prayer was that there was heavy overcrowding because of which passengers simply fall off running trains. A 12-coach train can seat only 1,200 people and another 1,000 standees. This is not a happy situation. The railways have promised to introduce 15 car rakes in future. Also, they have started introducing air-conditioned trains, which eliminates the problem of falling passengers. The expectation is that by December 2024 all trains will be AC ones. and they will replace trains that are more than 25 years old.
What about medical assistance to accident victims?
Following my PIL now several stations have ambulance facility to ensure that victims get timely help. Some of the stations also now have 24 hrs medical rooms with doctors where first aid can be given to the victims. Between Mira Road to Virar there are no government hospitals. Now, Western Railway has been asked to tie up with private hospitals in this stretch. About 416 passengers were already treated in these hospitals.
You had also taken up the issue of rampant corruption in the Railway Protection Force. What happened to that?
I wrote a simple letter to the high court on this issue and the same was converted into a PIL. The CBI was asked to investigate. Several RPF personnel were criminally prosecuted and they were sacked by the rail administration.
(To receive our E-paper on WhatsApp daily, please click here. To receive it on Telegram, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)