According to Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), it’s high time the Mumbai railway resume functioning. MNS leader, Sandeep Deshapande, travelled by train, along with fellow MNS workers, who boarded the train from 5 different stations to avoid overcrowding, in an attempt to show the Government how necessary it is for railways to resume working for the public’s sake, were stopped at Thane and Dombivali and were then taken to Naupada Police Station.
While lodging his protest and urging the Shiv Sena ruled state government to resume the railways in the state, Deshpande highlighted the daily ordeal of commuters who are spending hours while commuting via buses.
“The local trains are the lifeline of Mumbai. The government must allow the public to travel by suburban trains. This trip was an attempt to send this message to the government. When the buses have started operating in full capacity, it makes no sense to restrict travel by trains. People are spending hours by travelling in buses.” said the MNS leader while protesting against the government.
The railway service suspended since March 22 has briefly resumed functioning from June 15 only for those working in essential services.
Anil Parab, Maharashtra transport minister and a Sena leader clarified that the lethal virus will spread speedily if the train services are commenced in the city. “We are unlocking in phases. The viral infection will spread rapidly if the suburban train services are thrown open for the public.” clarified the Maharashtra Minister while expressing his concerns. With public pleas and Governments rejection to the same as concern, the real question is, is Mumbai, India’s biggest Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) hotspot, ready to take the blow that will follow after the full-fledged re-opening of its local train services? In a metropolitan region with over 3.3 lakh COVID-19 cases and 75 lakh daily train commuters, how and when can train travel in Mumbai resume safely?
“There is no doubt a lot of demand from the public for trains to restart, and we are getting letters from passenger associations about it, but we cannot do anything until we receive instructions from the state government.” said Shivaji Sutar, the Chief Public Relations Officer (CPRO) of the Central Railway network in Mumbai.
From a public safety perspective, not resuming full-fledged train services is a logical decision. Mumbai’s dense population and overcrowded public transport – trains, would be like inviting the virus to strike. Also equally logical, from an economic perspective, the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown has been devastating. With businesses and workplaces being opened partially and people continuing to go to their jobs, travel has been the biggest hustle.
Only public buses are available which are not just heavily crowded because of being the sole source of transport but are also less frequent. This issue had put railways under immense pressure.
Sumit Thakur, the Chief Public Relations Officer of Western Railway said, “New categories of essential workers are being added every few weeks but we can only reopen in a phased manner.” One step at a time. The railways should only completely resume working after a vaccine is found, according to railway staff. “Our lives are at risk, so it is best if trains re-open for the public only after a vaccine is found.” He said.