Mumbai’s packed trains           

By Julia Fernandes          

July 30, 2011


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


Yesterday, while I was travelling in the train, it was the regular peak hour rush. At Mira Road, which is the fourth station, the women were as usual trying to catch a foothold on the train. I was sitting close to the door. One girl was dangling at the footboard. Since it was raining heavily, all the dirty water from the train was falling on her face and mouth. It was so heavily packed that she could not close the door of the train. Her hands were on the handle bar. And there was no way she could shield herself from the dirty water.


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


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


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


The men’s coaches are no different. For more than 10 years my 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 are charged with 25,000 V AC. Some of the men sit on top of the train knowing very well that they can be electrocuted any time. And people have got shocks and died.


If you are a Director or CEO of a company or an HR Head, do show some consideration for your employees staying beyond Borivali. We have no choice but to risk our lives and come to work daily. Ask your male employee did he get a seat or did he come standing? Ask your female employee did she get a claim; was she able to enter the train? Ask your office boy or peon did he sit on top of the train today to come to work? The answers may, perhaps, send a chill down your spine.


And if all this was not enough, the icing on the cake is the constant fear of bombs being placed in our trains. There have been repeated bomb blasts in our local trains. If you are an employer, do spare a thought for your employees staying far. You do have a choice in making the work timings 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 and life and travel in these packed trains.