It is indeed sad that the safety committee concluded that rains are to be blamed for the death of 23 people dead because of stampede at Elphinstone station. Of course, the conclusion is on the expected lines i.e., the foregone conclusion of any official investigation. We Indians have already resigned to our fate and believe in our Karma and don’t question the conclusion. Mumbaikars, famous for the so called ‘Mumbai Spirit’ might have already forgotten the incident and have started rushing the same way over the same over bridge.
Actually, it is highly confusing to pinpoint the blame. Should we blame the Government? Or should the citizens of Mumbai are to be blamed? Let us discuss before concluding.
Except those who are “social workers” as a career, we Indians normally confine ourselves to criticise the government during drawing room discussions and dinner time debates. Yes, we have an opinion on each and everything and how things should be happening in the country, except “how we should behave ourselves”.
Don’t the authorities know the lack of space in many of local railway stations in Mumbai and this particular one where this incident happened? Well, everyone knows. How many railway stations in Mumbai have proper access to platforms? Prime time rush in many stations look there is a stampede everyday.
The growth of Mumbai from a fishing village to a Textile city to a metropolis is phenomenal, even by Indian standards. After all, this is the only city where one can get ‘luxuries’ like continuous electricity and drinking water throughout the year for many decades. This is the only city where one can come with dreams to become an Ambani or Amitabh. Or even George Fernandes.
Of course, India is a free country and people shall migrate where they can live better. But, I don’t think families of those dead in the stampede thought their families came to Mumbai only to die in stampede. There was a time when people from all the walks of life used to come to Mumbai. Apart from the charming Bollywood, there was industry where people with all levels of education and skills can get a job and live. Of late, however, only construction labour are coming to the city. The influx rate of educated migrants had reduced. Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Ahmedabad and Gurgaon have become alternatives to the four big metros for educated people searching for jobs. Still, the charm of Mumbai is overwhelming and there is an influx.
With little space available in proper city, government was forced to promote expansion of city in New Mumbai in the east, Thane in the north and beyond Borivali in the west. The entire city is depending on three major suburban rail lines and two major highways. The freeway and metro are only latest additions and cater to only a small percentage of commuters.
Any person with some common sense would have accepted that the infrastructure for about thirty million population is grossly insufficient. The safety norms too would mandate to have a margin from railway stations to access roads. Yet, all the politicians and officials have had was “greed”. Even the new colonies built on government land were badly planned with less space for roads, resulting in traffic nightmares even only a decade of after colony is inhabited. The city that boasted once large boulevards has only roads full of pot holes. On all flyovers, the joint of two concrete block could be felt by those who drive on these roads. Surprisingly, all flyovers in Gurgaon or Hyderabad or in Chennai are smooth. Even the monorail that was partly commissioned and now being run as a toy train with daily operation losses has projected foundations of the pillars at the centre of the road over which it passes. Don’t think it was constructed by a local contractor who was a corporator. It was constructed by India’s largest contractors. Maybe the official administration of Mumbai has a way even with large corporations and get things constructed in a shabby way.
Well, the problems of infrastructure are inherited by the government. But, even for the current administration, the priorities seems to be different. It is surprising to see hardly any new bridge to cross from the east to west was constructed, despite the phenomenal growth.
In industry, safety is considered to be the first parameter in designing any equipment, plant or process. It appears, for the administration (Railways, BMC and others) it is not. The fact that even now there are some plans of expanding the city in the east only shows how wrongly the priorities are placed. It is high time that someone with some vision should be made in-charge of the city to tackle its problems of infrastructure and transport. The rationale behind any expansion of the city shall be scrutinised minutely, including the safety of people during a war. It shall be investigated how and why the city is expanding continuously, despite thousands of flats remain unsold and many big towers are not completed even after a decade.
So, why only the government is blamed and not the citizens? Because, it is the job of the government to guide people. To educate them. To force them to follow the law. It is easy to blame people for rushing over the bridge without second thoughts. Then, what was the alternative? It is the job of the government to provide such an alternative.
Well, it is time for the administration to have a plan to make the city safer – from natural, routine and simple thing like rain. The city needs improved roads, drains and transport system. And immediately.
How to change People?
Then, it is very much needed to make people aware of “value of life”. If we don’t value our lives, why others will? Despite the huge number of vehicles, it is easy to drive in Mumbai because of its highly disciplined traffic. Even the Mumbai police are the best in etiquette. Unlike police in other cities and states, Mumbai police are soft-talking. Even while they accept bribes, they take it with a smile and even thank you. Maybe the Mumbai police can teach the ‘value’ of life to Mumbaikars. They ensured discipline in Mumbai traffic, so I expect them to teach citizens to value their own lives.