Mumbai’s packed trains           

By Julia Fernandes          

July 30, 2011


I stay at Virar and work at Churchgate. The distance betweenVirar and Churchgate is 64 kms and it takes one and half hour to reachChurchgate from Virar. As the train leaves Virar, at each subsequent station,the crowd swells. By the time the train reaches the fourth station, peoplestruggle, plead, and beg to enter the train.


Yesterday, while I was travelling in the train, it was the regularpeak hour rush. At Mira Road,which is the fourth station, the women were as usual trying to catch a footholdon the train. I was sitting close to the door. One girl was dangling at thefootboard. Since it was raining heavily, all the dirty water from the train wasfalling on her face and mouth. It was so heavily packed that she could notclose the door of the train. Her hands were on the handle bar. And there was noway she could shield herself from the dirty water.


It was the worst sight of human endurance. All of us werejust staring at her helplessly. She kept shaking her head to knock off thedirty water that was falling on her mouth. That was all she could do. I justthought to myself what could be running in her mind when the train at top speedis moving at 100 km/h (62 mph), and one slight push and she could fall off andlose her life? Was she praying or was she cursing her fate?


I was just thinking does her employer or the company whereshe is working know how she has risked her life and reached her office? This isthe daily morning scenario. People from fourth and fifth station onwardsliterally beg to enter the train. The train is so packed that all their pleasfall on deaf ears. When you see struggle on a daily basis it, somehow, makesyou immune and stoic almost to the point of being cold.


One of my friends who work at Andheri station rushes tocatch the early morning train only so that she can clock the mandatory ninehours. And recently a woman almost pushed her out of the train. The menstanding nearby caught her in time. And all this only so that she could put inher nine hours. Just a few days in the train she was commuting, a young schoolboy fell off the train as he was standing near the footboard.


The men’s coaches are no different. For more than 10 yearsmy brother commutes from Virar to Bandra station standing for one hour daily.He and other men like him do not get a seat. Our suburban local trains arecharged with 25,000 V AC. Some of the men sit on top of the train knowing verywell that they can be electrocuted any time. And people have got shocks anddied.


If you are a Director or CEO of a company or an HR Head, do showsome consideration for your employees staying beyond Borivali. We have nochoice but to risk our lives and come to work daily. Ask your male employee didhe get a seat or did he come standing? Ask your female employee did she get aclaim; was she able to enter the train? Ask your office boy or peon did he siton top of the train today to come to work? The answers may, perhaps, send achill down your spine.


And if all this was not enough, the icing on the cakeis the constant fear of bombs being placed in our trains. There have beenrepeated bomb blasts in our local trains. If you are an employer, do spare athought for your employees staying far. You do have a choice in making the worktimings flexible or showing leniency towards the work hours for such employees.Because, as far as we are concerned, we have no choice but to risk our limb andlife and travel in these packed trains.