Sanjay Ghawate wrote letters to president, used RTI, to ease rail users' travails
Geetanjali Minhas | September 18, 2010
It may not be a misnomer to call the 44-year-old Kalyan resident, Sanjay Ghavate, the face of humanity. Son of an ex- railway employee, beneath his lean frame and restive demeanor there is an unrelenting determination for philanthropy. Travelling back and forth daily in the central suburban railway trains between his home in Kalyan and his office in Elphinstone, he is no stranger to peak hour rush at Parel station where hundreds of patients are shoved around on overcrowded narrow platforms 1 and 2 and a single footover bridge as they struggle to keep their date with hospitals.
Parel-Lower Parel Block has metamorphosed into a major commercial hub with plush malls and mushrooming highrise buildings. Many major hospitals including Tata Memorial, KEM, Wadia, Mahatma Gandhi, Bachooali Eye and ENT hospital, MGM (ESI hospital), Animal hospital, Mumbai Vetenary College, BMC offices, a court and even a five-star hotel are also located in the area. As per Central Railway records, on a regular day Parel station witnesses movement of 26,365 commuters with a growth of over 16.58 percent in passenger traffic in the last one year.
However the railways so far seem to have completely overlooked this fact. The station has so far not kept pace with developments taking place in its vicinity.
Platforms 1 and 2 at Parel station cater to the rush of local trains while platforms 3 and 4 are reserved for operating long distance trains and running railway workmen’s train for carrying its employees to its Parel and Elphinstone workshops on Central and Western sides.
Ghavate has since November 2009 been trying to get authorities’ attention to extend platforms 3 and 4 towards Dadar side for halting 12 coach semi-fast trains. His argument: halting eight semi-fast trains (four each in morning and evening) at Parel will provide major relief to thousands of patients who come from far and near. Currently, they go via Dadar station, a major transit hub. Though adjacent to Parel on Kalyan side it is extremely overcrowded. For commuters and specially patients who come from far it is highly inconvenient to board trains and alight from there.
“Because of emergency and heavy commuter rush many patients cross tracks at Parel to reach hospitals, therefore meet with accidents or die. Patients holding saline bottles plugged into their noses wait for commuter rush to ease so that they can cross over the bridge but by the time another train comes more people get down. So the patients keep waiting till the time they don’t get pushed in the rush,” says Ghavate.
A proposal for a sky walk by MMRDA, crossing central and western railway tracks on Kalyan end with connection to platforms and joining the existing footover bridge (FOB) at BB end is said to have been scrapped.
Meanwhile, relentless in his conviction, Ghavate wrote to railway authorities in the city, president Pratibha Patil, prime minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, railway minister Mamta Banerjee, state railway minister E Ahmed, chief minister Ashok Chavan, mayor Shraddha Jadhav, railways chairman Vivek Sahai, home minister P Chidambaram, MP Milind Deora and MNS chief Raj Thackerey among many others.
Frustrated over writing letters, making umpteen telephone calls and trying to personally meet authorities his only hope remained at educating people about this need and taking the help of the media so that the government pays some attention. He has 250 signatures supporting his cause and filed an application under RTI lately.
Ghavate is particularly grateful to MP Milind Deora who supported his cause and on February 26, 2010 wrote to the then general manager, Central Railways, B B Modgil, asking him to consider Ghavate’s suggestions of putting up an FOB in the middle of platforms with two staircases to reduce congestion.
In an exchange of letters with the railways, the chief commercial manager, P L Khanna of Central Railways on July 30, 2010 noted: “A proposal for construction of railway footover bridge connecting platform no 1, 2 with 3, 4 at Kalyan station has been sanctioned and the work will be undertaken after monsoon. The said FOB is proposed at Kalyan end as the column and landing of FOB cannot be provided in the centre as per schedule of dimensions due to limited width of platform.”
With reference to halting semi-fast trains at Parel station the letter said, “Parel station is situated 1.2 kms away from Dadar station where all fast trains are halting. If halt is provided to fast trains at Parel, the running time will increase which will affect local train operations and also not liked by daily commuters. Parel station is well connected by Dadar and Mumbai CST. Hence it is not feasible to provide halt at Parel Railway Station.”
Divisional railway manager M C Chauhan confirmed, “We will build a new fob by June 30, 2011 with pathway landings on platforms 1, 2, 3 and 4. The cost of building this will be Rs 1 crore. The railways is also exploring the possibility of widening platforms 1 and 2." Affirming that MMRDA has withdrawn the skywalk construction, Chauhan attributed the pull out to funding problems in MMRDA.
Railway authorities will now construct an elevated pathway from above the new booking office at Parel leading to middle landings on both sides of platform 1 & 2 and 3 & 4. This will distribute commuter movement on platforms allaying of crowds at one place.
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