Death by Tracks: 988 Killed at Tamil Nadu in 2015
CHENNAI: What could one step away from the railway track have done to about 1,000 people in and around Chennai? Saved their lives. Trespassing onto railway tracks claimed 988 lives in the Chennai Division of Southern Railway till October this year, of which over 210 bodies remained unidentified. Tracks under the jurisdictions of the Government Railway Police (GRP) at Egmore tops the list with 164 deaths, followed by Tambaram and Korrukupet with 110 and 109 deaths respectively.
Awareness programmes and booking trespassers under the Railway Act has reduced the number of runover cases in 2015, compared to the corresponding figure for 2014. But railway tracks continue to be a death trap for hundreds of people who are mindless about the deadly consequence of crossing tracks. Avoiding Foot Over Bridges (FOB), walking on tracks while wearing earphones, and the absence of FOBs or subways and fences in certain places are a few reasons for these deaths.
“The number of deaths reported due to trespassing onto railway tracks has been brought down this year due to awareness programmes, particularly among college students. In fact, officials went to colleges to explain to students the evils of trespassing. The students spread the message to other commuters,” GRP SP Vijay Kumar said.
According to GRP data, several stations among the 14 railway police stations spread across the Chennai Division have reported a sharp decrease in the number of trespassing-related deaths. In total, the number of these deaths dipped by 11 per cent this year, when compared to the corresponding figures for 2014. While 1,106 persons were crushed to death till October 2014, 998 people were killed during the same period this year. Though suicides and accidental falls from running trains are also accounted as trespassing deaths, a majority of runovers are due to people crossing tracks in unauthorised stretches.
The identities of several people who were run over could not be ascertained. “We could not retrieve any identity card from the deceased and in some cases the bodies were mutilated. This made it difficult to identify them,” officials said, noting that the number of unidentified bodies would have increased, but for the attempts by the GRP to identify the bodies through measures, including matching pictures with those of missing persons across Tamil Nadu.
- Compared to 2014, the number of runover cases in 2015 has reduced due to awareness programmes and booking trespassers
- While 1,106 persons were crushed to death till October 2014, more than 980 people were killed during the same period in 2015
Spot Report of Each Station
“We do our best to ensure that passengers are safe, but many a time, in a hurry, they try to cross the tracks instead of using the footover bridge,” a local official said. Mambalam station has two footover bridges, yet many people tend to walk across the tracks.
There are two footover bridges at the Kodambakkam railway station. However, few passengers, in a hurry, get down at the end of the platform, which has a slope, cross over to the other platform.
This station has no bridge. There are two barricades — one on either side, where hordes of travellers wait to cross over. Though policemen guard the ends, whenever a train passes by, a few people tend to get past them. People claim that it’s mostly inebriated people who do this.
Due to tight security, no such incident was spotted at Central station. “All trains are on the same level and are accessible; and policemen are at every corner. So nobody gets down onto the tracks,” said Subhiksha Kumar, a frequent train user.
The situation at the Chetpet station is similar to that at Kodambakkam. Instead of using the bridges, many get down at the end of the platform and cross over. This is more convenient than using the bridge, but far more dangerous. “It’s become a habit, and nothing has happened so far.” said Vaishnavi, a student.
A few middle aged men were found sitting on the tracks and smoking. They didn’t seem to be bothered by an arriving train. Looking at the two men, Meeta Kumari, a city-based techie, said, “It’s usually people who are drunk who get on the railway tracks. Nobody in the right frame of mind does this.”