Five days after the tragic stampede at the Elphinstone Road bridge in Mumbai, which claimed 23 lives and injured 35, the railway administration has ordered a probe into the conditions of over 110 suburban railway stations. On the other hand, a victim, recalling the horrific incident, has claimed that the stampede was triggered due to a misunderstanding amongst the crowd.
The victim, 19-year-old Shilpa Vishwakarma, an engineering student, said, “A flower-seller at the top of the bridge had dropped his basket of flowers and shouted in Marathi, ‘phool padla’ (flowers fell). Soon there was another voice that said, ‘pul padla’ (bridge fell). In the confusion between ‘phool’ and ‘pul’, the stampede broke out as people ran to save their lives.”
Railway authorities have not confirmed the cause of the stampede yet even as the Western railway is still enquiring into the matter. Railway Minister, Piyush Goyal had announced an audit on the day of the tragedy itself. The Central Railway have formed eight teams while Western Railway have formed five teams for the audit. Goyal had also asked for an inquiry by the Chief Safety Officer of the Western Railway.
Shilpa, who was on her way to Vile Parel on the day of the incident, said that on the bridge was congested on the day owing to sudden rains at peak hour. “People were waiting on the foot of the bridge to take shelter from the rain and people getting out of the trains were pouring on to the bridge too.” Shilpa stated that she, like many, were crushed under people and many died mainly due to asphyxiation. “The person who saved me, Tilak Ram Teli, is no more. He pulled me out from under a pile of people, the crowd fell on him as soon as I slipped out.” Today, Shilpa feels lucky to have survived with bruises on her arms, back and side.
Mumbai local trains carry 7.5 million commuters everyday – 2.6 times its actual capacity. The railway network is overcrowded, therefore, mishaps keep taking place. According to an RTI reply given to RTI activist Anis Khan’s query, from 2005-2015, 6,989 people have died from falling from trains and 22,289 died while crossing railway tracks.“We need wider bridges that will accommodate the rising population of the city. However, we as citizens should also be disciple while walking over foot over bridges. People carrying a heavy load should be allowed to walk in a single file while other passengers should also follow a single file”, says Shilpa. Upon asking that isn’t she scared to use the bridge Shilpa says, “There is fear but we Mumbaikars have no option. So control the fear because the show must go on!”