Panic Mode: On

Panic to reach office on time. Panic to catch the regular train because your group is in the train. Panic that few minutes delay to office will have an additional mark against your career. Panic that if you reach office late, you will have to stay back and miss your regular train going back home. Panic that the rains might delay the delayed trains further. Panic that the trains may stop midway and you would be stuck inside for hours without water / food. Panic because you would need to pee. Panic because the electricity might give away. Panic that there would be some goons stopping the trains and you would be stuck. Panic that your boss won’t believe your excuse of trains being late for yet another day because he never has travelled in a train.

Yesterday a stampede at Elphinstone Road station in Mumbai resulted in death of 22 people and quite a few were left injured. One of the dead people was a colleague of my brother in law. Just thinking about it shudders me. The memories of me being pushed out of the train and being walked over came rushing back. This has happened twice with me, making me paranoid about travelling in local trains during peak hours. I am fortunate enough to work in the afternoon shift when the crowd is bearable. And on some days when I have to reach office early, I can afford to take a cab (My office being 40 kilometers away from home, cabs are not that cheap for daily transport)

Mumbai, with all its unbelievably high real estate prices, high cost of living, slums, filth, crowd has been a people puller. Blame it on Bollywood or being marketed as a city of dreams. The result is the city bursting at the seams. unlike Delhi or Pune, Mumbai can not be expanded through all the directions. It can only be expanded vertically. The suburbs of Mumbai, which should technically end at Mulund (Central Railway) are now extended till Karjat / Khopoli. People travel for 5-6 hours daily for work. Local trains in that sense are a lifeline. They are faster and cheaper than roadways. But they also come with their own set of problems. Congestion in trains, foot-over bridges and on platforms, which by the way is not unique to Mumbai. Every major station all over the world faces this problem.

Earlier we had 9 car trains, which were extended to 12 cars and now we have 15 car trains. The number of compartments have increased but so has the crowd. Earlier there were definite periods of time where you could get the local train comparatively empty. Now the chances are very dismal. Railways have introduced mega blocks on Sunday (making travelling on a Sunday a harrowing experience) The trains are delayed most of the times, atleast by 10-15 minutes daily. Travelling becomes all the more frustrating and hence the stupid fights for a little space. Read more about it here:  An unforgettable scar!

The government should think of introducing alternate faster and cheaper ways of transport (point to point) and giving incentives to companies to have their offices in the suburbs. When most people are travelling from Thane & beyond, why can’t some offices be in Badlapur / Ambernath? The crowd can be spread out that way. They are already working on the metro lines, which would definitely help ease the pressure on local trains. It would also help if we have more work from home options and flexible hours.

But as citizens, we also have some responsibilities, which we conveniently forget.

Do not throw trash on the railway tracks. Carry a bag with you and dispense when bins are available.

Use the foot-over bridges and do not cross the tracks.

If people have fallen down, do not walk over them. Be considerate. (It’s a shame that otherwise helpful Mumbaikars become monsters when travelling in locals)

Have some discipline. Know that everyone is in a hurry to reach their destination.

Don’t spread rumours / panic. Keep Calm and switch off the Panic Mode.

Things are changing, unfortunately not with the speed we require / wish for. But we need to change too.