Published: Wednesday, May 9, 2012,
By Rajendra Aklekar | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

A national spotlight isn’t enough to reverse a trend. Case in point: deaths on the Mumbai suburban railway. The latest data released by the city’s railway police commissionerate reveal that 805 commuters died and 867 others were injured in the first three months this year.

“It is a shame. Despite much noise over them, deaths on tracks show no signs of a decline. This is an emergency situation and the authorities — both local and national — need to look into this urgently. We cannot accept so many deaths taking place during travel,” said Madhu Kotian, member, Zonal Railway Users’ Consultative Committee, the official railway-passenger grievances body.

Data collated from January to March this year show that, 512 commuters died and 518 others were injured on the Central Railway (CR) line, and 293 died and 349 were injured on the Western Railway line. Most of those who died were trespassers crossing tracks, closely followed by those who fell off trains. Last year, 3,458 commuters died and 4,164 were injured in train accidents in the city.

A Right to Information query filed earlier this year had revealed that nearly 40,000 commuters had died and an equal number were injured over the last decade.

A transport upgrade project to improve and increase the number of trains in the city was recently launched to deal with overcrowding. Recent figures show that crowds in locals have thinned down — but just marginally.

Railway officials said they are doing everything possible to cut down death rates — from increasing the height of platforms to putting up fences. Taking cognisance of the large number of deaths caused by trespassing, the CR has promised a network of skywalks to criss-cross rail lines to provide a permanent solution to the issue.

After activist Samir Zaveri, who lost his legs in a train accident near Borivli about two decades ago, approached the court in 2008 demanding better medical facilities at stations, the railways were forced to provide ambulances outside stations and to upgrade medical facilities there. The railways have also set up a first-aid room at Dadar.