People mainly plan their vacations during holiday seasons or long weekends. Most domestic travellers prefer to travel by trains to reach their destinations. But are our railway stations ready to accommodate huge crowds of people? Railway stations in major cities of Maharashtra are so cramped that mishaps are inevitable and then it will be too late to act.
During holiday seasons, foot-over bridges at railway stations in Nagpur, Pune and Mumbai, to name a few, are so crowded that people feel suffocated and it is a huge task to walk on these bridges with their baggage. For senior citizens, it is no less than a nightmare.
On December 23, I happened to travel from Nagpur to Pune by Nagpur-Pune Express with my family. The moment we reached the railway station, I was completely disappointed with the unmanageable crowd. I could not see any RPF official who can manage the crowd. People were just pushing and thrashing others while making their way, and then there were some hurling abuses to dissect the crowd at the foot-over bridge. I held my daughter’s hand firmly and started following the coolie as it was not possible for me to jump over the crowd and reach the platform on time. The two-way traffic made the situation worse.
There were passengers who wanted to exit the station and there were those who had to board their trains, many of them fearful that they may miss their train if they don’t reach on time. Same was the situation at platforms. Utterly chaotic!
At Pune station, the situation was no different. Senior citizens and kids were completely harrowed. And again, here also there was no RPF official who could manage the crowd (and unruly passengers misbehaving with others).
Another issue that needs immediate attention is of beggars. They make railway stations their shelter and target passengers rushing to their destinations. They also freely enter the coaches of the sleeper and general class and beg from passengers. At the time of arrival and departure of trains, these beggars station themselves at FOBs and platforms and harass passengers.
Why does the government not make our railway stations beggar-free zones?
The stampede at Elphinstone Road railway station in Mumbai on September 29 this year was a result of such chaos and the unmanageable crowd at railway stations. Cities like Pune and Nagpur will soon have Metro trains, the dream of a bullet train is becoming a reality, but what about our railway stations, which lack basic infrastructural facilities and manpower? And how long will the common citizen have to face such nightmares? There is no harm in dreaming big, but what is more important is improving, maintaining and strengthening the existing facilities and living up to the expectations of the common people.