The ‘crush hour’ on suburban trains of Mumbai has inspired films, stories and humour. Its stories have travelled far and wide. A 49-year-old woman from Thane has, however, been doing her bit to discipline the crowd boarding trains at the busy railway station. Jyoti Salvi has been travelling in locals for decades. “The jostling and pushing is almost a part of life for all of us,” she says. After petitioning people to take steps to manage the crowd, she finally decided to take matters in her own hand. On most afternoons, she can be seen shepherding people into a line across the platform for fast locals, both up and down.
“I ask people to stand in lines. People who come later should stand at the back. If we can do it for metros, why can’t we do it for local trains?” she asks. Salvi has earlier been a member of the Nationalist Congress Party.
“I have always wanted to work for the people,” she says. “I got bruised sometimes while trying to board a local. The way people push and hustle, it’s dangerous. People have fallen out of platforms and into tracks too,” she adds.
“I first decided to talk to the railway police. They liked what I was saying, but said that they don’t have sufficient manpower to manage the crowds. So, I decided to do whatever I can on my own,” she explains. On certain days, when the trains may be late, she is even seen drawing lines to mark the queuing space on the platform using a chalk.
“I have written to railway authorities, to mark where the train coaches will halt. That will help people in standing at the right direction. Once the lines are in place, people will stop running from one coach to the next, and the entire boarding chaos will also go down,” she says.
While some people listen to her authoritative voice, several others start questioning her. “Are you a TC is a general question I get. I tell them I am a common citizen,” she says with a smile.
“Some people come and thank me once they board the train. Some people don’t listen, so I try to cajole them. Finally, I threaten them that I will complain against them. Most of the time, they listen, but sometimes I fail,” she says.
Salvi is a known face with regular commuters. “She once helped a girl who was standing with a big bag. She made sure that the girl gets in the compartment by organising everybody in a line. It’s a nice initiative, and we always follow what she says,” said Ashiya Khan, a Dombivli resident who goes back home from her college in Thane in the afternoon.
While the railway police is short-staffed, they do know about her. “Whatever she is doing is actually helping the crowd. So we don’t trouble her. She sometimes brings some anti-social elements to us and we make sure we take the necessary action,” said an officer from the Thane railway police.