Mumbai, Oct 11: An official probe into the September 29 stampede in Mumbai on Wednesday gave a clean chit to Western Railway (WR) officials, but instead blamed heavy rain and rumours for the tragedy that killed 23 railway commuters.
WR Chief Safety Officer (CSO), who conducted the inquiry into the stampede at a foot overbridge connecting Parel and Elphinstone Road stations, submitted the report to General Manager Anil Kumar.
It includes statements of injured commuters, eyewitnesses like police and railway officials and members of the general public. The inquiry also analysed closed-circuit television footage at the station and the foot overbridge.
The probe report said a vendor dropped a bunch of flowers and a cry of ‘Majha phool padla’ (my flower fell) led to the spread of rumours of ‘pool padla’ (bridge fell), which “possibly triggered panic and led to the stampede”.
“The committee concluded that the tragedy occurred due to a downpour and accumulation of commuters on the overbridge and the staircase around 10 a.m. on the fateful day,” the CSO observed in his report.
WR Chief Spokesperson Ravinder Bhakar told media later during the day that “rumour, coupled with sudden torrential rain” on September 29 morning led to a huge rush at the Elphinstone Road station and the bridge, which led to the tragedy.
“Many people stranded on the bridge were unable to move due to heavy rain, even as other commuters were stepping out of trains and trying to climb the bridge,” Bhakar said.
The probe committee also recommended certain short- and long-term measures for Mumbai suburban stations, including installation of additional CCTVs at stations and in trains, removal of all encroachments on bridges and foot overbridges and in railway stations’ vicinity, among others.
The report also recommended utilising ticket booking office space to upgrade foot overbridges, equipping station authorities with wireless sets, in case of predictions of heavy rain by the India Meteorological Department or BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation, and suitable announcements to avoid chaos among commuters.
The Railways has announced a high-level committee to inquire into the 18-month delay in issuance of Notice Inviting Tender for the Elphinstone Road overbridge, and recommend measures to ensure that such delays are minimised in the future.
This committee will be headed by former Chief Vigilance Commissioner Pratyush Sinha and comprise Vinayak Chatterjee, Chairman of CII Economic Affairs Council, and Subodh Jain, who is ex-Member (Engineering) of the Railway Board as Members, besides Railway Board Director (Safety) Pankaj Kumar as Member-Secretary.