Mumbai’s Elphinstone Road station stampede that left 23 dead and 39 injured on September 29 was brought on by the rain that compelled people to take shelter on the foot overbridge, and the constant flow of passengers crowding it. Both these factors are not unfamiliar to Bengaluru , which sees huge crowds of people everywhere and is plagued with bad infrastructure and a poor public transport system. Citizen activists, Mohan Raju, former secretary of the Koramangala ST Bed Resident Welfare Association and B S Ananthram, a former member of the association speak to Joyeeta Chakravorty. They believe the ghastly stampede at the suburban rail station in Mumbai was the consequence of the prolonged neglect of urban public transport in India.
"We should definitely learn from the stampede and change the way we look at mass transport," says Mr Ananthram .
"The rising population of Bengaluru and the continued neglect of its public transport makes the city a ticking time bomb and if the authorities do not learn from the stampede in Mumbai you never know what might happen," agrees Mr Mohan Raju as Mr Anantharam adds with frustration, "There is no coordination between any of the departments. Look at the failing drainage system or the flooding following the rain!"
Having lived in Mumbai in his formative years, he thinks Bengaluru is worse off in some ways. "In Mumbai, the traffic does not come in from all directions like it does here , but has a north-south commuting pattern. We need to have a proper traffic management strategy , which takes into account the city's ever changing commuting pattern. Also, the public should be encouraged to take public transport, which should be strengthened," he continues, asking rhetorically, "Have you used a bus at the Majestic? The government should rethink the whole layout and introduce proper technology and a disaster management unit there. It should extra care as tragedy can strike at any time otherwise."
Mr Mohan Raju interrupts to say, "What happened is sad , but it has brought to light the problems that public transport users face every day. And the state should start giving this issue due importance. Having the Metro has definitely eased travelling, but is it the answer? No. The government should strengthen other modes of transport like the bus, suburban rail and autos so that there is less peak hour load on the Metro. And not just that, we need a disaster management unit with well-trained personnel to deal with a situation like this."
He goes on to observe with concern, "The number of private vehicles and taxis has grown in our city because of the increase in its population and with people refusing to carpool, there are traffic jams everywhere. Have you seen the width of the roads? We need wider roads and separate lanes for cycle users or the two-wheeling commuters."
Mr Mohan Raju sums up, " Come to think of it, there are so many areas that the government should start work on immediately. It is sad that we as citizens have many solutions, but politicians always lack ideas and only wake up when faced with a disaster like the recent water-logging caused by rain in the city."