Women passengers’ long wait for space on local trains

Railway authorities have turned a blind eye to the long-standing demand for extra women’s coaches

The 2017 theme for International Women’s Day, March 8, is ‘Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030’, but Mumbai’s working women are still crying for more space on local trains. Women passengers and railway activists have been demanding extra women’s coaches for years, but railway authorities have turned a blind eye to the plea. Activists say the authorities should allot more women’s coaches as the number of working women is increasing every year.

Pleas go unheard

Asha Ignani, member of the Suburban Railway Users’ Consultative Committee, said, “This is a serious issue but authorities are not taking it seriously. Women passengers are increasing by the day, but the number of women’s coaches have remained the same for years. At least one additional coach has to be allotted for women on each train.”

Ms. Ignani, who has been travelling on local trains for the past 16 years, says nothing has changed. “The peak hours are the worst for women. Despite heavy passenger traffic, women get onto crowded ladies’ coaches to reach their offices on time. However, they often injure themselves or lose their lives in the process.”

In fact, accidents involving women have been on the rise on Mumbai’s local train network. So far this year, 39 women have lost their lives and 90 have injured themselves while travelling on local trains. Most of them falling off running trains, being knocked down by trains while crossing railway tracks and falling into the gap between the platform and the train.

Last year, 364 women died and 643 were injured. Fifty of them lost their lives when they fell off crowded trains, while 203 were hit by speeding trains while crossing tracks. Ignani says, “Why is the Railways ignoring its women passengers? I have been raising this issue for many years, but nothing has been done to address it.”

According to data released by the Railways, of the 75 lakh suburban passengers on the Central and Western lines, 22% or 16.5 lakh passengers are women. A total of 8.58 lakh women travel on the Central line and 7.5 lakh on the Western line.

Rajiv Singhal, member of the Divisional Railway Users’ Consultative Committee, said, “Women passengers should get a minimum of 33% of the total space on local trains. On a train with 12 coaches, four coaches should be completely set apart for women. If the Railways follows this rule, then they need not run special ladies’ trains.” Now, two and half coaches are reserved for women on the Western Line, while three coaches are reserved on the Central line. Mr. Singhal says, “There are many women who suffer from health issues, and carry their children along with them. Sometimes there are not able to get on to crowded trains and meet with accidents.”

Expressing agony

Women passengers too have expressed their agony over limited space on local trains. Kavita Sharma, who has been commuting between Mira Road and Churchgate for the past 11 years, said, “When I started travelling by train, I used to get a seat right from Mira Road. Now, I hardly find place to stand comfortably during peak hours. The Railways should do something to resolve our problems.” Nisha Srivastav, who commutes daily from Ulhasnagar to Thane, said, “Now, women passengers have increased so much that I’m forced to travel on the footboard from Ulhasnagar to Thane. We too buy tickets to travel, but we hardly get space to stand. Many women are losing their lives due to space crunch.”

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Printable version | Feb 23, 2020 9:53:31 PM |

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