TRAFFIC ON the Central Railway was brought to a halt on Tuesday afternoon for over 50 minutes after locals took to the tracks following the death of a 14-year-old boy, who was run over by a train between Byculla and Sandhurst Road railway stations.
Over 150 protesters from the Ekta Nagar slums adjoining the railway lines near Sandhurst Road protested against the lack of alternative way to cross the tracks, after the British-era Hancock bridge was pulled down by railway authorities on November 19. Protesters alleged since then, they had been left with no practical option to go to the other side but to cross the tracks.
The incident that triggered the protests took place around 10.30 am, when Gaurav Vora, a 14-year-old from St Peter’s High School at Mazagaon, was run over as he was crossing the tracks to go home. While Gaurav’s school falls on the east side of the tracks, Noorbaug locality, where he lived, is adjacent to the west end of the lines. The protesters demanded a Road Over Bridge or a Foot Over Bridge to over the tracks.
Government Railway Police DCP Rupali Ambure said the protesters took to the tracks around 1.15pm. She said they managed to get them off the tracks “within minutes”. “They agreed to clear the tracks after we took along BMC officials, who agreed to meet them tomorrow and resolve the issue of the bridge,” said Ambure.
Highlighting the dangers residents face, hours later, Hitesh Singh, 42, a resident of Ekta Nagar slums, was waiting with his son Sahil near the tracks. Sahil goes to Young Achievers School, on the other side of the lines. “He crosses the tracks four times a day,” Singh said.
The alternative, he Singh, is to take a detour from Byculla or a train from Dockyard Road, go up to Sandhurst Road and cross from there.
“The process is cumbersome… We are left with no option but to cross the tracks.”
Another 57-year-old employee, waiting to cross the tracks within hours of the incident, said there were several government offices like the Sales Tax Office in Dongri for which people have to cross the tracks everyday. Calling it a khooni rasta, locals said at least 10 people have lost their lives on the same stretch in the past few weeks. But the GRP said since the bridge was brought down, there have been four accidents.
St Peter’s High principal E D’monte said: “The boy stayed at Noor Baug and would take the bridge, but since that is under repairs, the children have to take a bus and go on a longer route. His parents would drop and pick him from school everyday but on Tuesday, he was alone. The incident is very unfortunate.”