With more than 8,000 people getting killed or injured on railway tracks over the last 12 months, a PIL has been filed in the Bombay high court on the rising number of fatalities on the city’s suburban lines, which carry over 6.1 million passengers every day.
The PIL has come more than three years after the high court ordered Central Railway (CR) and Western Railway (WR) to ensure that accident victims were taken to the nearest hospital within the “golden hour’’ period—the first 60 minutes after the occurrence of multi-system trauma.
The petition is scheduled to come up before the division bench of Chief Justice Swatanter Kumar later this week.
Filed in the first week of March by Pydhonie resident Sameer Zaveri, who had lost both his legs in a train accident a few years ago, the petition contended little had changed since then. “Over the last decade, accidents on railway tracks shot up by 53%, from 5,304 in 1997 to 8,244 in 2007,’’ claimed Zaveri.
More worrying, according to the petitioner, is the fact that the mortality rate since the 2004 HC order has hovered between 47% and 51%—not much of a change from the figures before the judgment.
Of the 8,244 people who met with accidents on the tracks in 2007, around 3,937 died (see box). “Many of those who die are youths in the age group of 20-30,’’ said the petitioner, pointing to media reports on such seriously injured victims not being taken to the nearest hospital because of the dearth of medical facilities or porters.
According to the PIL, a number of people were killed while trying to cross the tracks. This constitutes 20% of the total.
“A major reason behind the accidents, classified as ‘untoward incidents’, is massive overcrowding on the suburban network,’’ said the petition.
According to railway estimates, more than 4,700 people travel in a 9-car rake during peak hours, as against the carrying capacity of 1,700. This causes regular mishaps, with people slipping into the gap between a train and a platform, getting smashed against the poles along tracks or falling from packed coaches
Zaveri pointed out that such victims were usually classified as “trespassers’’, depriving the victim or his/her family of proper treatment and compensation. “An accident victim is admitted to the nearest railway or private hospital whereas the trespassers’ are handed over to the Government Railway Police to be taken to a municipal or government hospital,’’ the PIL said.
Advocate Suresh Kumar, counsel for WR in the earlier PIL filed by orthopaedic surgeon Dr Sarosh Mehta, said they had already filed a compliance report with regard to the 2004 judgment.
This is reflected in the statistics, with WR faring better than CR in implementing the high court order and bringing down the number of fatalities.
While WR has completely eliminated deaths caused by people falling into the gaps between a train and a platform, it has seen a 1% fall in the number of mortalities caused by trespassers trying to cross the tracks. However, the number of mishaps involving passengers falling out of overcrowded trains has gone up.
None from CR, though, was available for comment.
Besides seeking implementation of the earlier order, the PIL also urged the court to issue a directive to the railway authorities, asking them to explore the possibility of having doors that operate automatically “to prevent injury to more than 50% of the passengers.’’
The PIL demanded timely medical care and an end to the discrimination against those classified as trespassers. The other prayers included the shifting of dangerous poles, fencing of tracks, deployment of ambulances with paramedics and resuscitation facilities at all stations. The petitioner also sought heavy penalties on those concerned in the event of the “golden hour’’ rule getting violated.
2004 HC GUIDELINES
Rush accident victims to the nearest hospital—private or government Railways to bear the medical expenses of victims Doctors not to insist on a panchnama A walkie-talkie on every train Open 24-hour telephone helplines to report railway accidents Construct boundary walls and fence railway tracks
Every station should have two lightweight and collapsible stretchers, one rechargeable torch, disposable hand gloves and a first aid box
Allow parking of ambulances and list the details of nearest hospital at stations
Raise the height of platforms, build foot overbridges