“Had the authorities heeded my tweets and widened the foot overbridge (FOB) at Elphinstone station, Friday’s tragedy could have been avoided,” said cartoonist Manjul.
His tweet in February this year had specifically warned of an impending disaster. “Pre-rush hour Parel station. The only staircase which people use to exit and enter the station. A major accident is waiting to happen.”
Like Manjul, there were many others who had warned railway officials and the government about the perilous conditions but the warnings resulted in no action. The tweets had even tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as former and current railway ministers Suresh Prabhu and Piyush Goyal. Just four days ago, journalist Santosh Andhale tweeted an image from the crowded Parel bridge.
Andhale’s September 26 tweet, directed at the railway minister, said, “@PiyushGoyal sir pls do something related to this Parel bridge in Mumbai.
But Western Railway just passed the buck since the bridge comes on the Central line. It tweeted, “Matter fowarded to @Central_Railway pls.” Other commuters had written to railway officials and local representatives over the years without much effect. Local resident Rajesh Bansode said he had written to the railways for the last seven years asking for the expansion of Elphinstone’s FOB. “For the last seven years I have been writing to the railway authorities. Parel is another disaster waiting to happen as there is no exit at the Parel end. Elphinstone at least has two,” he said.
Local residents said they had been demanding alternate routes on Parel and Elphinstone stations for the speedy dispersal of passengers. It was particularly difficult to exit at rush hour, they said. “Following our requests, railway officials and elected representatives did visit the Parel-Elphinstone stations, but it was a customary visit and there was absolutely no follow-up action,” said a prominent resident.
Commuters said government was more concerned about installing WiFi at stations than passenger safety. “Our stations don’t have basic amenities, while cabinet members were busy installing WiFi on stations. We don’t need WiFi, we need more FOBs, at stations like Parel and Elphinstone,” said a local resident.