About three weeks ago, Indian Railways (IR) faced a lot of flak on the nimbu paani video on Mumbai suburban’s Kurla railway station. The video showed an employee of a food stall at Kurla in Mumbai suburban making nimbu paani in the most unhygienic manner. IR authorities swiftly sealed the stall and ordered an enquiry.
Yesterday, it was informed that the IR had levied a fine of Rs 5 lakh on the licensee (food stall owner) based on the results of the nimbu paani sample collected. A fine of Rs 5 lakh for playing with the health and lives of passengers consuming nimbu paani in railway premises is inexplicable from an organisation which takes passenger safety pretty seriously.
However, IR is silent about the action it took on those railway employees who were responsible for ensuring food safety standards were complied with. In fact, the rules are so stringent that railway employees found violating passenger safety norms are demoted, suspended and even removed from service depending on the ruling of departmental enquiry proceedings.
This brings us to a larger question, does Mumbai suburban need food stalls on each platform?
Super dense crush load
Sample this: During peak hours, a 12-car rake on Mumbai suburban which has the capacity of carrying of approximately 2300 passengers or four persons per square metre actually carries 12 to 14 persons per square metre and sometimes even 16. IR defines this as super dense crush load.
This is the daily peak hour rush every office-goer encounters. At important stations such as Dadar, Parel, Kurla, Andheri, Bandra, Ghatkopar,Thane and Vadala Road, the platforms at rush hour are teeming with commuters making the surface invisible. This is the situation despite trains being run at 3 to 5 minute intervals and no wonder Mumbai’s lifeline carries over eight million passengers each day.
With increase in passenger traffic and space crunch to accommodate more passengers, IR has taken several initiatives such as adding new foot-over-bridges (FOB) and installation of escalators. However, this eats into the space where commuters stand unless platforms are extended suitably. Platform extensions have been done at stations which have the space. However at stations where space is a constraint, the problem increases manifold when an equipment failure (such as overhead wire snapping, point failure or a signal failure leads to bunching of trains) to accommodate people on the platforms.
A question then arises- Is it possible for IR to relocate stalls from platforms( to make way for requisite infrastructure like FOBs, escalators, and benches) to the station entrance akin to the model followed by the metro railway systems across the country?
This will allow passengers to buy whatever they want before entering the platforms while simultaneously ensuring that stall workers don’t lose their jobs.
This will free up space on each platform. The stall policy of IR is a well defined and detailed document which stipulates what can be cooked or prepared onsite and what cannot. Proper implementation of this policy along with periodic checks will ensure such goof-ups do not recur.