The stampede at Mumbai’s Elphinstone Road suburban station foot over-bridge claimed 23 lives.
Need for fixing gaps:
The risk of such a tragedy occurring, particularly on the 45-year-old foot over-bridge, was well known to both the Railways as well as commuters. To be fair, the Railways had recognised, albeit belatedly, that it needed to address the inadequacy of the infrastructure.
Construction of a new bridge had been cleared by former railway minister Suresh Prabhu about two years ago, but ironically tenders for its construction were floated only on the day of the tragedy. The blame for the tragedy must squarely lie with the Railways bureaucracy.
The tragedy has served as a wake-up call for the Railways and the new railway minister Piyush Goyal has acted with urgency to announce a host of new infrastructure projects that will make passenger movement at Mumbai’s suburban stations easier.
The announcements including 92 escalators and several foot over-bridges are welcome and the minister should ensure that these projects are not delayed or the quality of work compromised.
But a city like Mumbai where over 7.5 million passengers use the suburban services everyday, needs much more than these escalators and overbridges. It needs a modern mass rapid transit system.
It also needs a modern approach to traffic management.
Adequate entry and exit points to facilitate crowd movement as well as crowd management need to be a priority. The Delhi Metro does a reasonably good job with marshals and Central Industrial Security Force guards on the platforms and concourse and by restricting access to the station if required. The Delhi Metro has the advantage of being a modern infrastructure unlike the Mumbai suburban service which dates back to the colonial era. The long-term solution to crowding is to augment facilities at regular intervals and build in redundancy into all new projects to handle growth.
For urban and suburban mass transit projects, it is also necessary to have increased and ongoing coordination between different agencies to plan and augment infrastructure. For instance, the Mumbai suburban service cannot be just a Railway project —the municipal corporations and town planners need to be closely associated with it to develop the areas around the stations and prevent choking by people and road transport.
Above all, there has to be a razor-sharp focus on execution.
It will not be out of place to suggest that citizens’ participation is also required to keep transit systems tragedy-free. And that should not be limited to just demanding improved amenities such as escalators and lifts to enable faster movement from one platform to another in train stations and make stations and trains more accessible for the differently-abled.
Citizens should also be aware that their behaviour can avert or trigger a tragedy.
Connecting the dots:
Mumbai’s Elphinstone tragedy is a grim reminder that there is a robust need for recognizing the significance of cities and the need to invest in building their physical and civic character. Elucidate.
Stampedes in India have become a common problem these days and are the consequences of human activities labeling it as manmade disaster. Suggest few mitigation strategies to avoid the losses that occur during such stampedes?
General Studies 2
Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
General Studies 3
Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers.
A four-point agenda for farm revival
Need of agriculture reform:
Private sector is yet to harness the business potential of agriculture and allied sectors in India. The dilemma arises in the absence of enough policy enablers to ensure private participation despite the promising potential. Land fragmentation has resulted in poor yields and productivity, making the sector unviable for small farmers.
What needs to be done?
Solving this crisis and reforming the sector will involve re-organisation of key factors of farm production — land, labour, capital and technology. What makes such a comprehensive relook at agriculture imperative is the fact that 49 per cent of the national workforce and 64 per cent of the rural work force still depend on the sector for a living, even though the share of the sector in the overall GDP has shrunk massively from around 45 per cent in the 1950s to about 16 per cent today.
Long-term leasing laws:
The primary challenge is low productivity due to fragmented land holdings. Today, about 85 per cent of all land holdings belong to small and marginal farm categories of less than 2 hectares. This has hindered infusion of technology (use of hybrid varieties and farming techniques) and discouraged capital investment (in irrigation and mechanisation).
The only way to overcome this challenge is by facilitating a legal framework to consolidate these holdings in to larger operational units through “long term leasing of farmland without alienating the land ownership — as has been introduced by Rajasthan, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab. This policy reform can be a game changer as also suggested by Niti Aayog in the Model Land Leasing Act — no change in ownership and no tenancy rights, land reverts back upon expiry of lease.
Long-term leasing can facilitate the entry of the private sector into agriculture to infuse much needed energy in the form of:
Introduction of high-value crops
Increased mechanisation and
Introduction of new farming techniques and technologies.
These partnerships may not just impact productivity but have a substantial influence on farmer income as well. Industry also stands to gain by getting access to assured supply of commodities for their processing and marketing operations.
Connecting the dots:
Elaborate on what changes should be made in our agricultural policy so as to solve the challenges of land fragmentation and improve the livelihood of farmers.
Discuss the associated advantages of long term leasing of farmland without alienating the land ownership. How does this augment rural farm income? Discuss.