Day before yesterday, twenty-three people were crushed to death in Mumbai. Many others are in critical condition. It was not a terrorist attack, no bomb exploded, neither was it an earthquake, or a deluge, or any other natural calamities, that caused the deaths and injuries. It was the reckless behaviour of my fellow insane commuters that did it. Death due to stampede is common in my overwhelmingly populated country, but such occurrences are mostly witnessed when there is a mass movement of religious devotees journeying to one of the many sacred sites in India; such incidences are not so common in a railway station where people regularly move to and fro.
The moment I got the unfortunate news of the stampede at Mumbai’s Elphinstone Road Station and when I saw the pictures of men and women lying dead, I was extremely pained and I was furious. I poured my heart out by writing an expletive laden article. But I decided not to publish the article. I wanted to first calm down, and it took me two days to do so. Hence, I am now writing this article without the expletives. I am still sad and still angry at the way innocent people lost their lives for no fault of theirs.
Dear people of Mumbai, do not just move around blaming the government for what had happened day before yesterday. None but you, yes, you, my fellow commuters, are to blame for the loss of so many valuable lives. I have been in Mumbai long enough to know how you all behave. Your lack of consideration for others have cost people their lives. You are always in a hurry to reach your destination. The moment a train comes to a station you, who wait for the train in the railway station, spring in to the train even before the train halts, even before the passengers who are already in the train have a chance to come out of it (you want space but you don’t allow the others to come out and give you space, and you get in and create more problem and confusion). And, as you run forcing your way in the train, you don’t care whether you push people (women, elderly or little children) around, stamp on their feet, elbow them and injure them. Not a single day passes without someone getting injured, if not killed. Go to Kurla Station or Dadar Station and observe the commuters, you would see everyday someone or the other is fracturing his/her bones, getting a cut somewhere, or is falling down from the train. All this can be avoided only if you are considerate and disciplined.
Yes, the massive population in Mumbai (which is as much as the entire population of the whole of Australia, and which is rapidly rising day after day) is no doubt one of the factors that is creating the main problem. The local trains, being the lifeline of Mumbai, are always packed beyond their capacity. Raj Thackeray is right when he says that problems (like the stampede that happened day before yesterday) would continue to happen as long as the migrants keep coming to Mumbai. But what solution is he providing? Well, he would no doubt want no more migrants in Mumbai and he would also ask people to leave Mumbai. His concern is right, his approach in dealing with the concern is wrong. Migration is a reality and migration will always happen. Whether he likes it or not, he will have to live with it. The development of infrastructure in proportion to the size of the population is the answer to the problem, but development does not happen overnight, particularly in a country which is developing and which happens to be the second most populated country (where most people were corrupted for too long) in the world, and is a democracy.
No doubt, there was a need to have more Foot Over Bridges at Elphinstone Road Station which could have allowed people scatter to other places instead of everyone standing on the single bridge that connects Elphinstone Road Station to Parel. Day before yesterday, it was raining and people wanted to save themselves from the falling rain. It was not someone firing bullet or cannon balls. Rain would not have killed anyone. It had rained earlier also; exactly a month back one month’s rain had fallen in a day but no such stampede happened then. The people could see that the bridge was already full of people yet more and more people gathered in the bridge. No one wanted to let the other person go first, all they cared was for themselves. People are not stones to not feel any pain. The pain of one, which to the inconsiderate other meant nothing, resulted in 23 deaths so far.
Mumbai provides us opportunities to be someone, to earn our livings, to be better than we were. But in the pursuit of material well-being all our civic sense has gone for a toss. All we care about now is how to get more and more for yourselves even as we have thrown our ethical values out the window. We have become slaves to our daily chores, and from human beings we have now become machines, and like machine we have no feelings. Our commercial mindset has killed all the good that was within you, that all men is born with. Our interest comes first (What’s in it for me, eh?) and we have total disregard for the others. We don’t even realize when we are uncivil, which has become the way of life for many of us.
We will be happy if we have better infrastructure in place, but until then we have to make do with what we have. Meanwhile, we must be disciplined (even after being well-educated, peoples’ rowdiness, when they try to board a local train in Mumbai, astonishes me) to avoid casualties.
Copyright © 2017 RAMU DAS