In Mumbai 22 people are dead in a stampede at the Elphinstone railway station. Apparently, the problem began on an overcrowded footbridge that led to the stampede. The incident has been called tragic. Unfortunate is the word that Minister Suresh Prabhu has used in his tweet posted on Twitter. But a more accurate word to describe the Elphinstone stampeded is neglect. This is because on Twitter it was highlighted to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then Railway Minister Prabhu last year by someone who uses public transport that due to rush such an incident could occur at Mumbai’s crowded railway stations.
In a tweet that seemed prescient now, a Twitter users K K Chandan, tagged Modi and Prabhu and wrote, “@sureshpprabhu @narendramodi Is central mumbai station ‘Parel’ awaiting a stampede?” It was accompanied by the photo of the crowded station.
– Chandan KK (@CKSquare) July 28, 2016
On Friday, 22 people were killed and as many as 35 injured in the stampede that took place on a foot overbridge at the Parel Railway Station, which connects Elphinstone Road and Parel suburban stations. The stampede happened during the rush hour in morning, when people were going to their work. Reports say that heavy rain forced commuters to take shelter at the foot overbridge. When the train arrived, people rushed to board it, leading to the stampede.
The neglect, even probably the apathy for the ordinary Indians, from the government authorities seems Kafkaesque. Only that it is real. The government has nowadays made it a habit to ask Indians and citizens to report issues through social media channels and WhatsApp. But when the issues are reported they are either not acted upon or are not acted upon with the urgency they require.
Last year when Chandan reported the issues at Parel station, no action was apparently taken. This is probably the reason why just two days ago Santosh Andhale, another Mumbaikar, tweeted an image from, about the same Parel bridge. This time he had tagged Piyush Goyal, the current minister of railways, and Western Railway. This tweet got the attention of the Western Railway, which then forwarded the matter to Central Railways with a tweet. “Matter forwarded to @central_railway pls,” wrote the verified account of the Western Railway.
– Santosh Andhale (@Santosh_Andhale) September 27, 2017
Matter fowarded to @Central_Railway pls
– Western Railway (@WesternRly) September 27, 2017
However, for now it is not clear if there is anything that has changed at the Parel station or not. But it is clear that the tweets complaining of over-crowding and poor infrastructure at the Mumbai stations didn’t draw enough attention of authorities to lead to some sort of urgent checking of bridges and infrastructure because if such checking had been done the Elphinstone stampede wouldn’t have happened.
It’s not only about the stations though. Of late, with government encouraging people to connect to various departments — and all these departments have Twitter and Facebook pages — nowadays many report issues and incidents through these channels. Ministers, and even Prime Minister Modi, use Twitter to connect to people. However, in most cases the communication seems to be one-sided.
People report about poor traffic, poor infrastructure, corruption and other related matters through Twitter and WhatsApp to government department. Although many of these complaints are acknowledged, many are also ignored. At the same time, there is a feeling that even if the complaints are acknowledged, nothing on the ground changes.