The Elphinstone Tragedy Will Change Nothing In Mumbai

The recent tragedy, close to a mass self-inflicted massacre, at the Elphinstone Road station is a live testimony to the chaos our country is. For me to write this article several days after the incident, would be surprising to people used to instant noodles, instant soups and instant news. We have all information at our fingertips, but here’s the thing: each piece of news is banter for an hour, trending for a day and no more than a debate for a week.

The purpose of talking about the Elphinstone Road incident is not to blame anyone. That’s what everyone is doing, so far anyway. People in the crowd blamed the other people in the crowd, the other people in the crowd are blaming the present government mechanism, the present government is putting it on the previous government and the baton is going to and fro between all those involved. Those unconcerned, too, are exercising their revisionist muscles and voicing their opinions. So, I take a dip and attempt to do the same.

I don’t send my opinion from a news anchor’s seat or a politician’s. Either way, I will blame another entity. Moreover, either of those ways are soft and comfortable positions- well seated in air-conditioned rooms. Instead, I speak from a Churchgate bound local train’s second-class compartment, which at the moment is cramped, to say the least. It is 1 p.m. In a circle around me are dozens of men, heading to work or college…we are piled up against each other, which still is nearly five times a better situation than how it would have been, say three hours ago, at 10 am. Definitely cozy, but that’s not really the word for it.

When I will reach my destination, two dozen people will be thrust out by the mutual human force that we shall exert on each other. Simultaneously, people at the platform will try to jump into the trains as soon as it stops.

After the incident on Friday, a great many people came together, proposing a unanimous solution: get the Railway Officers and VVIPs to let go of their privileges and travel in circumstances they themselves, to quite an extent are responsible for. However, dear privilege-bearers, I would not really wish these circumstances to be inflicted on you…quite embarrassing it would be, to stand out on a platform, because you are incompetent!

Not as an official, but as an individual, because here is the problem: Not one individual out of those several people hanging outside, squeezing into a place beyond the footboard (how I don’t know), will acquiesce to give their spot to a VVIP, to a CM or for that matter, any dignitary.

Everyone has their workplace to reach to, and each one has fought hard to find a square inch in the jam-packed local. Survival of the fittest, after all.

Coming back to the subject, what prompted me to write this, was not the incident in itself, but another set of happenings that sort of answer why the incident transpired in the first place.

A Border Security Force pilot has pointed out discrepancies in the safety of air-crafts flying VIPs and MPs. Moreover, maintenance of these air-crafts is not up to the mark and pilots are trainees.

Something more to think about are the two instances when Maharashtra Chief Minister, Devendra Fadnavis’ helicopter crash-landed in May and July respectively, earlier this year.

These facts bring us to a conclusion.

The government is not apathetic to citizens or citizens safety. It is just plain apathetic to safety in general.

Let me provide another version of this conclusion.

We Indians, are apathetic to safety. Because after all, who cares? The world does not come to a grinding halt when 20 citizens die in a public tragedy. Except for the families, that is. Otherwise, who cares? Television anchors seem to, not because they actually do, but are literate enough to articulate it.

Somewhere to an extent, and how it would appear to an onlooker, even we commuters do not care much about our own safety. A couple of hours after a tragedy that killed dozens, people were hanging out of the locals and shall continue doing so. We continue overcrowding the trains. We continue going to work. We continue paying taxes and we continue hating the government for not using that money wisely.

Having said that, I shall add to point out, where I feel we currently are – in a circle.

Why do we not quit adjusting and overcrowding our trains? Maybe because we have been left no option by the authorities who can do something about it. Why do authorities do nothing about it? Maybe because we are adjusting and overcrowding our trains.

Who is responsible for this stalemate?

If our decision makers would have been efficient and not as obstinate as they are, there would have been no such stalemate. Since they are, to what extent can we, the tax-bearers and problem-bearers, do something? As far as the government is concerned, their apathy for safety, in general, has hurled helicopters, in which they themselves are travelling, to the ground.

It’s like paying a nanny to take care of your children when she is doing a bad job of parenting her own children. You can’t blame her for arrogance when she fails to deliver, but rather for ignorance and indifference.

I alight at Vile Parle station. I see no pushing-pulling happening as such, nevertheless, a man falls while walking out of a compartment. He looks around and shouts at a middle-aged plump man, who he thinks has pushed him. The plump man smiles. We Indians never push anyone. Every time, someone else pushes from behind.

Ignorance or indifference? Do comment what you think about the Elphinstone Road Stampede.

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