Bombay HC Condemns “Cattle-Like” Conditions of Mumbai Train Commuters

Mumbai Train

The Bombay High Court expressed its shame at the conditions commuters face, likening their travel in local trains to being herded like cattle.

The court’s remarks came during the hearing of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) concerning the rising number of deaths among commuters, attributed to falls from overcrowded trains or other track-related accidents.

Chief Justice D.K. Upadhyaya and Justice Amit Borkar emphasized the “very very serious” nature of the issue, asserting that top officials of both the Central and Western Railways would be held accountable for the “pathetic” situation in Mumbai.

Serious Concerns Raised

The PIL was filed by Yatin Jadhav. The court stated, “A very very serious issue has been raised in the PIL, and therefore you (railway authorities) have to address it. You can’t say, we can’t do this or can’t do that due to the large number of people (in the city). You carry people like cattle. We feel ashamed at the manner in which commuters are made to commute.”

The bench directed the general managers (GM) of the Western and Central Railways to “look into the entire issue” and submit affidavits in response. These affidavits must be “personally vetted” by the GMs and “indicate the measures which are available and are in force to check such mishaps,” the court ordered. The PIL will be heard again in eight weeks, the HC noted.

According to the petition, 2,590 commuters lost their lives on the tracks in 2023, averaging seven deaths per day. Additionally, 2,441 people were injured during the same period. The Central Railway route accounted for 1,650 fatalities, while 940 people died on the Western Railway.

Railway’s Response and Court’s Criticism

Appearing for the Western Railway, Advocate Suresh Kumar stated that measures were being taken, such as erecting barricades between tracks and constructing two or three foot-over-bridges at each station. He also mentioned that the WR had implemented previous HC directions related to the issue.

The court responded, “You should not depend only on orders for saving people’s lives. We agree you have followed those directions. But have you been able to check these deaths? The question is whether these measures have yielded results. Have you been able to reduce or stop deaths?”

Kumar highlighted that the WR was operating services at the highest possible frequency, with trains departing every 2-3 minutes during peak hours. However, the high court clarified that it was not suggesting an increase in the number of trains or their capacity but insisted that a solution must be found.

“This time we will make the highest-level officers accountable. The situation in Mumbai is pathetic,” the bench asserted.

“You (Railways) can’t feel happy that you have been ferrying 35 lakh people daily. You can’t say considering the number of people in Mumbai you are doing a good job. You can’t even take refuge in saying there are too many people. You have to change your mindset. Your officers need not be satisfied by commuting such a large number of commuters,” it added.

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