NEXT week, at least one group of Ram Mandir proponents may have reason to post a minor victory of sorts — when Mumbai’s suburban railway gets its newest railway station. Spanning four platforms, with two spacious foot over-bridges and elevated ticket booking offices, Ram Mandir station at Oshiwara is a hard won battle for thousands of railway commuters who live between Jogeshwari and Goregaon stations. Over the years, this area has grown, fueled by several residential and commercial neighbourhoods.
When the first Western Railway local halts at Ram Mandir station next fortnight, it will be a relief from the hefty autorickshaw fares and long queues for a bus ride to Jogeshwari or Goregaon. The station derives its name from a 200-year-old temple to Lord Ram in the vicinity. In fact, local residents have long referred to the locality as ‘Ram Mandir’. The main road along the area is also named Ram Mandir Road.
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“The temple has been an important landmark for commuters and visitors to this place. The area is known by our temple. We are happy with the respect given to our temple by naming the station after it,” said Shaila Pathare, a trustee of the temple. The station also replaces the “Ram Mandir Fatak” or level crossing gate that allowed motorists to cross over from east to west of the tracks.
Currently, more than 50 workers including gangmen and supervisors are racing against time to wrap up work that’s been on for nine years. The last station to be inaugurated on the suburban section was Kopar, in 2007, on Central Railway. Since 2015, naming of the station had been fodder for local politics. From conducting a signature campaign to receiving assent from Opposition parties, the process of finalising the name assumed almost as much importance as the completion of the station itself.
“I will no more have to spend Rs 60-70 on a one-way ride from Jogeshwari station to my office, which is quite close to Oshiwara. A 10-minute walk from where the new station is coming up and I will reach the doorstep of my office. The wait for the station has been for centuries,” said a regular commuter.
For those who campaigned hard for the naming of the station, the opening will mark a big victory. “When railway rules allow for the naming of the station in accordance with the area around it, how can this station be named anything else? When we heard it was going to be called Oshiwara station, we protested following which Ram Mandir became its official name,” said Niranjan Pai, a leader of the local Veer Sena.