Mumbai: Three months after 23 commuters died in a stampede at the Elphinstone Road station, a citizen’s campaign is demanding a paradigm shift in the way Mumbai commutes to work, through extensive application of flexible working hours for office-goers. The campaign is backed by the India chapter of the International Advertising Association (IAA) after being initiated by a senior advertising professional in Mumbai who lost her executive assistant in the September 2017 stampede.
The campaign, WorkToLiveToWork, urges Mumbai-based companies to implement flexible office timings for employees. Nandini Dias, managing committee member of the IAA’s India chapter, helps Mumbai-based companies to implement flexible office timings for employees so that they do not risk their lives to reach their workplaces.
“I have lost two of my closest people in deaths related to suburban railway accidents last year, including an office colleague. This has left an irreparable wound in my life. Therefore this project is really close to my heart almost a life mission,” Dias said. Launched last week, the campaign has reached out to 22 corporate houses so far. Suburban trains cater daily to 80 lakh commuters on an average in the city.
“The objective is simple. WorkToLiveToWork is pitching for all employees to get the simple right to choose their own starting hours between 8 am and 11 am, and closing hours between 4 pm and 7 pm while sticking to a definite set of working hours between 11 am and 4 pm. The biggest reason for rush-hour chaos is that almost all organisations have similar timings. Infrastructure cannot improve itself overnight. But with flexible timings and enough firms participating, the rush-hour intensity can potentially disappear,” said Dias. She added that the campaign is pitching for all employees to get the simple right to choose their own opening hours between 8 am and 11 am and closing hours between 4 pm and 7 pm. “This will ensure less crowds during peak hours and a hassle-free ride,” Dias said.
Ramesh Narayan, President, IAA India Chapter, said, “Every year IAA undertakes initiatives to show that communication can be an effective force for the good of society. This year, Nandini Dias is spearheading this meaningful project.” He added that instead of waiting for the infrastructure to be improved, which would obviously take a long time, Nandini’s idea is as practical as it is simple. The initiative intends to end the irrational rigidity in Mumbai’s office timings and save lives.
Reports show that approximately nine people die on the suburban rail network, which is nearly 3,500 people in a year. Many of these people travel in the overcrowded transit system just to avoid a late mark as that leads to penalty on their salary. Ramesh Narayan, president of the IAA India chapter, said, “While heads of offices are not against it, they have done very little to actually roll it out and enable people. There is no data to say how many people actually are on flexi-timing.”
Narayan revealed that in phase two they will approach organisations, including the Confederation of Indian Industry, Indian Merchant Chamber and National Human Resource Development. “We are also seeing the impact which we are getting because of the campaign and we are also going to approach HR of the offices for flexi-timing,” said Narayan.
Last year, then Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu had asked consultant Rail India Technical and Economic Service (RITES) to study the implementation of segregated office timings in Mumbai. The report had suggested that offices around the Bandra Kurla Complex must start implementing staggered office timings.
The RITES and Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation (MRVC) had brought out the report. “Infrastructure planning and development takes time, hence, staggering of office timings to bring down crowding on trains during peak hours was proposed as a short-term measure,” said an MRVC official.
Both CR and WR welcomed the suggestions but said a strong push had to come from the state. “The initiative should be taken to a mass level to make it more effective,” said Ravinder Bhakar, CPRO, WR. Sunil Udasi, CPRO , CR said the issue of crowding in trains is being handled by introducing extra services and building infra and such initiatives will help solving the crowding issue.