EVEN as the injured and bodies were being brought into KEM hospital in Parel, politicians from various parties rushed to the hospital to meet the victims and many of them took the opportunity to criticise the Rs 1.1 lakh crore bullet train project that will connect Mumbai and Ahmedabad.
Several members of the Shiv Sena led by Sena corporator Kishori Pednekar staged a protest outside the KEM hospital demanding that the bullet train project be scrapped and the funds be used instead, to improve the existing railway infrastructure.
Pednekar said apart from the Prime Minister’s bullet train project, they were protesting against the poor condition of foot overbridges.
“The complaints involving the Parel-Elphinstone bridge have long been ignored by the railways. The bridge is too narrow for commuters during rush hour. But we are also against the bullet train project. Instead of wasting so much money on a train that goes to Gujarat, the government should focus on the railway infrastructure in our city,” she said.
Throughout the day, other senior leaders from the Sena also came to meet family members of the deceased and the injured.
Questioning the need for the bullet train project, senior Sena leader and Industries Minister Subhash Desai said: “Instead of a bullet train, important railway works should be taken up on priority. The demands and issues of the Parel bridge should be taken up immediately by the railway ministry and administration. We will put in a request to the Centre through the state government and also reach out to the PM on the issue.”
Arvind Sawant, the Shiv Sena MP from South Mumbai, said he had written to the Railway Ministry but the latter had not taken cognisance. “I had raised the issue of foot overbridges in the Parliament. I had specifically written about the issue of Parel FOB to the Railway Minister who responded by saying it is under ‘positive consideration’. It has been more than a year-and-half and still, no action was taken,” said Sawant, adding that a case of culpable homicide should be registered against officials.
Shiv Sena activists also attacked the BJP and the railways on social media for their failure to act on the issue despite several letters written by Sena leaders. They said that in April 2015, Rahul Shewale, another Sena MP from Central Mumbai, wrote to the Railway Ministry seeking that the FOB connecting Elphinstone Road and Parel stations be widened.
Former Mumbai mayor Shraddha Jadhav also wrote a letter to the railway minister in June 2015 demanding that the FOB be shut down owing to traffic congestion in the area.
Former Congress MP Milind Deora demanded that a structural audit of the foot overbridges be conducted at the earliest. “I have requested
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal that a structural audit of the FOBs be carried out in a time-bound manner and repairs, where required, be carried out,” he said.
Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam blamed the railways for negligence and said officials should have made alternative arrangements for commuters long ago.
Taking a dig at the Sena-BJP government, he said: “For the last three-and-a-half years, the Shiv Sena and BJP’s attention has been on changing the name of Elphinstone Road station and not on improving the facilities for commuters on local trains. I would like to ask the PM and the railway minister, why is the bullet train your priority? This country, and especially Mumbaikars, don’t need the bullet train. We need local trains and commuters need good facilities.”