Wednesday, March 2, 2016

3000 dead on tracks every year-but Govt: wants only bullet train to Ahmedabad-MUMbai news

Crush hour's main culprits: Cartels of Mumbai locals ... › Mumbai
15 hours ago - Crush hour's main culprits: Cartels of Mumbai locals. From top: Scenes from the 7.59 am Dombivali-CST local. This is the same train and coach ...

Crush hour’s main culprits: Cartels of Mumbai locals

From top: Scenes from the 7.59 am Dombivali-CST local. This is the same train and coach that Nakate fell to his death from; nobody helped Nakate as he wasn't a regular on this train; (L) On November 27, a video of Bhavesh Nakate falling to his death from a local train went viral
By Kamal Mishra

Video footage of Bhavesh Nakate's death brought about several changes in commuter safety; it also revealed the brutish nature of the cartels that block doors of coaches.

Known fact: At least 10 people die on railway tracks in Mumbai every day, with most injuring themselves fatally after falling off trains.

Hidden truth: While overcrowding in trains is a major reason - the locals ferry over 78 lakh people in 2,952 services through the day - a small percentage of passengers block exits and ensure only people known to them or regular commuters are able to board the trains. The railways call them 'train bullies' but they operate more like gangs. In 2015 alone, 3,756 bullies were booked by the railways.

They are regular men and women; people you often encounter when you go out shopping or to the movies. But what turns them into beasts? Mirror spent several days in trains to find the people behind the cartels. This is their story.

Bhavesh Nakate didn't have to die. He just happened to be in the wrong train at the wrong time. On November 27 last year, Nakate had boarded a CST-bound train to go to office from his home in Dombivali. Minutes later, he fell to his death from the train. A video of him falling off the train went viral. It was shot by someone in the train and shows Bhavesh smiling and holding on to the steel rod, asking people to make way and let him in. But nobody budged. Nakate lost his grip and suffered grievous head injuries and succumbed to injuries.

The reason why nobody pulled Nakate inside or come to his rescue is apparently simple: he was not a regular commuter of the 7.59 am Dombivali-CST local. On the fateful day, the 7.59 got delayed and reached Dombivali at 8.03 am, Nakate's usual time to board the train. However, none of the passengers had seen Nakate and neither had he - thus the customary salute was missing and so was the helping hand when he was about to slip.

Ramesh Shinde (name changed on request) who travels regularly in the 7.59 local from Dombivali to CST in coach number 3 - the same coach from which Nakate fell - says that the train ride to-and-from home is the only time that people like him get to be themselves. "While at work, we have to listen to our Seth (employer). At home, we have to abide by what the family wants. This is the only place we have to be ourselves; we sing, we crack jokes and catch up with our friends. I have a tough life; I have to reach my shop at 10 am, clean it up and wait for my Seth who reaches by 11 am. I couldn't be bothered about other people in the train. They should not disturb us."

By "other people" he meant those who are not part of the usual group. Nakate was one of the "other people". When pressed for answers, Shinde wouldn't say whether he saw Nakate fall or not.

When Mirror caught up with Shinde at his workplace - he works at Fashion Street in Fort - his Seth was all praise for him. "He is diligent and obedient." Shinde's co-passengers, however, know a different side to his nature. On February 14, another irregular passenger tried to get into the 7.59 Dombivali-CST local and take Shinde's place on the footboard. Shinde pushed him, his co-passengers said. Thankfully, the train wasn't moving at the time.

Long hours of travel have a transformative effect on people

"Frustration is the main reason behind this type of behaviour; if you are locked up in a room, you will do everything to break open the lock. In the case of Mumbai locals, people are doing the same - getting out of their closed space. Disturbing or hurting others is a manifestation of their frustrations," says Deepak Goel, a psychiatrist who practises in Worli.

"If you live in far-off places like Nallasopara, Dombivali or Kalyan, you spend around four hours every day just commuting from home to office. Not only does that commute leave you with no time to socialise, it also gives you a lot of stress," says Anjali Chhabria, a psychologist who runs her own clinic in Andheri.

Frustration, stress and general bullying nature apart, what makes the gangs of Mumbai locals unique is its attempt to reclaim the city's lifeline as its own. By controlling the entry and exit to the coaches, these people try to give back what they get the whole day, day after day, in their workplaces. Professor PG Jogdand, a sociologist who teaches at Mumbai University blames the massive inequality in Mumbai for this boorish behaviour. "It's a kind of disorder which develops due to socioeconomic inequality."

Mahesh Dubey, who works as an account manager in a prominent firm at the cloth market of Kalbadevi, has been a regular commuter on the Dombivali-CST local for the last 15 years. "Office boys and delivery boys who are pushed around the whole day in office become very aggressive in the local train if an unknown person boards the train."

Blame the slums for the crush hour

If you've never travelled in a Mumbai local during the super dense crush hour (peak time traffic between 7-10 am and 5-9 pm) here's an analogy: Imagine packing 15 people in a phone booth, faces shoved into each other's armpits, and the other person breathing down your neck, quite literally. Now multiply this a hundred times over. That's roughly what happens in one of the 12 coaches of a local.

So how did it get so dense? Partly because a majority of the slum dwellers started shifting to small houses in far-flung areas like Nallasopara, Dombivali, Vasai-Virar and Kalyan. Over 55 per cent of Mumbai lives in slums and many like Virendra Pandey are slowly moving out. Pandey, a taxi operator who used to live in a slum in Kalina has now moved into his own house at Tulinj, Nallasopara (East). "I had a 120 sq ft room in Kalina, which was redeveloped in 2012; I found a 300 sq ft flat in Nallasopara. In 2014, we decided to shift to Nallasopara as my son needed a separate room after his marriage."

According to the 2001 census, Nallaspora had a population of 1.8 lakh+ which has now shot up to 8 lakh+. The exponential growth is reflected in the growth of train passengers as well: in 2004, some 60,000 passengers used to board the train from Nallasopara; in 2011, the figure had shot up to 1.5 lakh. Present day figure stands at 2.2 lakh.

It's easy to see why. Property rates in Nallasopara hover around Rs 3,000 per sq ft, way cheaper than the Rs 12,000-17,000 per sq ft that areas like Borivali or Kandivali command.

And for those at the bottom of the food chain, laying claim over the local - Mumbai's lifeline - is the easiest way to get even.

In case of delay, pull chain

It's 8.37 am at Nallasopara station and the chain has just been pulled - the third such incident in 40 minutes. It was headed for Virar and was supposed to pull into platform number 1. At the last minute, an announcement was made that the train will reach platform 8 instead.

"If they change the platform at the last minute, then what can I do? Our friends are waiting at platform number 1, which is almost 500 m from platform 8; if the train gets diverted, my friends need more time to reach," said the person who pulled the chain; he was a just one in a gang of 15 and did not like it too much when this newspaper tried to extract more information out of him.

It's a daily headache for the railways but for the passengers, it's an easy way of ensuring that their friends get to board in time.

Senior Divisional security commissioner, Anand Vijay Jha, says at least five incidents of chain-pulling are reported from Nallasopara every day. "We have deployed a special team but it's very difficult to catch the culprits. When our team reaches to investigate why the chain was pulled and by whom, it is met with complete silence," said Jha. He added that none of the passengers report about the incidents due to fear of reprisals.

The footboard belongs to the 'Bhai'

Greetings are almost a ritual for getting into trains at Nallasopara station. Scores of 'Bhais', lingo for local bullies who control the ingress and egress to coaches, hang from the doors as the train pulls in and out of the station. If you don't salute these bhais, chances are that you will miss the train.

The problem is particularly acute in the 8.24 am, 8.37 am, 8.40 am, 8.54 am and 9.09 am Churchgate-bound fast locals. Almost all doors are occupied by a group of regular commuters from Virar and they unofficially mark their territories. Ramakant Progaonkar, who works with the Income Tax department at Churchgate, boards the train from Nallasopara every day. "You can't fight them; the only way to get into the train is to salute them," he says.

Santosh Sawant from Nallasopara, who works with a software company in Chandivali, says that if one needs to board a fast train in the morning rush hour, one needs to maniatin a good rapport with the footboard travellers. "Otherwise you should be ready for a fight," he told this newspaper during a journey from Nallasopara to Churchgate.

The slow local versus fast local problem

Amjad Bhai of Khadakpada, Kalyan, travels on the train's footboard on the right side now. "I've been travelling on the footboard for three years now. Earlier, I used to stand on the left side but my arm got crushed after I hit a pole while in the train. I now travel on the right side," he said.

One has to see how adept he is at footboard travel; he latches on to the rod and watches movies on his cell phone while travelling between Kalyan and BKC, where he works as a driver with UCO Bank. The accident hasn't dampened his spirits. "There is a 30 per cent chance that I will die if I travel on the footboard. But if I go inside the coach, I am 100 per cent sure that I will die of suffocation," he reasoned, when asked why he always blocked the entrance when people were trying to get in.

Sachin Bhalode, senior divisional security commissioner of Central Railway, said his department regularly takes action against repeat offenders like Amjad Bhai. But clearly, the numbers are too overwhelming. Commuters regularly complain of not being able to get down at their stations because the gangs block the entrance. Ashok Singh, a resident of Virar, recounted his experience: "I once boarded the 6.58 pm Virar fast from Churchgate. Midway, I got a call from a friend and wanted to get down at Andheri but nobody let me."

The common refrain that commuters travelling in the Virar fast hear when they try to get down at, say, Borivali is that they should take the slow local (which stops at every station). "If you tell them you boarded by mistake, they will shout at you. If you argue, they will beat you up," Singh said.

Shame story in ladies' coaches

Viji Jayachandran boards a local around 8 am from Kalyan for Ghatkopar every day. "Travelling in the ladies' compartment is a daily agony; especially in the 08.37 local from Kalyan to CST and 08.46 local from Karjat to CST. Groups of friends travelling together in these locals resort to physical abuse of other fellow female passengers. They block the entrance and don't allow others to enter the train," she says.

The ladies compartment also sees a different kind of 'dadagiri'. Female passengers travel all the way down from Dombivli to Kalyan so that they can reserve a seat for themselves when the train terminates at Kalyan and begins its Up journey to CST. They slap and pinch other female passengers so that they get a seat. There's no empathy for the elderly or sick passengers whatsoever. If you stand up to them, the entire group gangs up," she says.

Louisa Menezes, who boards the train from Mira Road, has had a similar experience. "I face problems getting into the 9.36 am local. The train is always overcrowded and people coming from Virar and getting down at Dahisar block the entrance. There is an argument practically every day. Most of us can't get in and have to keep running between platform numbers 2 and 4 to catch a train."

Deepika Chaudhuri, a PR manager, has had a different kind of an experience. "Once, I boarded a Virar-bound train by mistake from Santacruz station at 8.30 pm. I had to get down at Malad. But the train was packed and nobody let me get down at Malad. There were so many ladies getting into the train from one side and the other side of the coach was blocked by women who wanted to get down after Borivali. I requested them to let me get down at Malad but they didn't budge. I had to get down at Borivali and a take a Churchgatebound train to reach Malad. That was a really horrible experience."


On February 15, Jayesh Pandey fell from the 7.57 am Virar-Churchgate fast local between Nallasopara and Vasai stations. When he boarded the train, he held on to the rod near the door, but not for long. His gripped loosened and he fell. He is currently undergoing treatment at Kokilaben Hospital. His father, Jayanti Lal Pandey, a retired mechanical engineer from Nallasopara, said that nobody came to his son's rescue. "He works with a renowned company. He is not a regular train traveller. That's why nobody helped him."

comment:- no Government will survive when 3000 die on tracks while dreaming only of bullet trains to Ahmedabad,