While getting sandwiched in a peak hour Mumbai local, did you ever fear that you may die of suffocation? If you have, be warned, it is quite possible to get suffocated to death in a crowded Mumbai local. An investigation carried out by Mumbai Mirror has revealed that at least 400 people have died in the past year after they fell sick on local trains. A majority of these incidents also occurred during peak traffic hours.
A Mumbai Mirror correspondent took a local train everyday and travelled in a second class compartment for seven days to find that all the ventilators in these compartments were dysfunctional.
"This correspondent, over a period of one week, travelled in second class compartments of 10 locals on the Central Railway's Main Line (five during the morning peak hours and five during the evening), and found that ventilators were not functioning in eight of these trains. The situation was no better on the Western line. Of the eight locals checked by this correspondent on the Western Line, six had non-functional ventilators," the report states.
It adds that a local train in Mumbai has the capacity to carry 1,320 people. However, during peak hours it carries no less that 4,800 people, which means 16 people jostling for space in 1 square metre of area.
Representatives of a hospital that runs an emergency medical room in Thane station in Mumbai's suburbs told Mumbai Mirror that they cater to at least 12 unwell passengers everyday, and 5 of them complain of suffocation.
Overcrowding is also the reason behind deaths due to falling off trains. It's a common sight during peak hours to see men and women hanging precariously out of a packed compartment, holding on to one pole placed at its gate. In September this year, an RTI query revealed that the number of deaths due to falling off overcrowded trains has shot up sharply.
The figures were revealed when Mumbai-based RTI activist Anis Khan got a reply to his query. "n 2005, total 494 commuters lost their lives after falling from running trains. This figure went up subsequently in the coming years and reached upto 901 in 2013, up 82 per cent as compared to the death toll in 2005, he said."
The report notes that the number came down to 797 in 2014, but still the number was no less terrifying - 797 people dead in a year for trying to get on to a train.
The Mumbai Mirror report says that the suffocation deaths have not quite hit the headlines because they are categorised as 'other' in official records. A railways official, who refused to be identified, told the paper that a majority of 'other' deaths were caused by suffocation and asphyxiation.
A 2013 article on WorldCrunch sums up the reason behind the increasing number of fatalities in Mumbai locals. It says, "Rail traffic has increased sixfold in the last 40 years, whereas transport capacities have merely doubled over the same period. At the same time, Mumbai’s population, now estimated at 20 million, has soared. Its density is twice that of New York, and there are no skyscrapers. It has become so complicated to build new rail lines in such a densely populated city that one of the only ways of increasing transport capacities is to extend the trains and increase their speed."
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