Monday, 9 February 2009

When push comes to shove

Every morning the Times of India is pushed between the bars on my front door and with it, like an uninvited party guest, the tabloidesque Mumbai Mirror. Usually the Mirror dabbles in news of showbiz couples, crime and civic outrage. Last week it delved into the story of how thousands of angry commuters stormed train tracks at a suburban station after a morning peak hour train was cancelled and another was moved from platform 2 to 8.

Now these are big deals. Bombay's trains are famous for being like cattle trucks - with many many times more people than is safe packed onto carriages. Peak hour is madness, with hordes of commuters stampeding down the platform in the hope of not getting a seat, but just getting on the train. Even non-peak hour is pretty horrendous.

Bombay's Central Railway Dept's solution for dealing with overcrowded trains? Not to add more trains, or more carriages, or update trains to have more space. No, according to the Mirror, they will be employing policemen to act as "pushers": literally, to push people onto the trains, during peak hours.

It's not a uniquely Indian phenomenon, however: pushers and pullers are also employed in Japan to help people get on and off trains in Tokyo's famously overcrowded subway.

Naturally, the Shiv Sena has weighed in and is planning "Sena" style protest. No details on just what form this protest might be in. If my RSS-apologist grandmother is to be believed, it could be something fairly benign. The Shiv Sena, she insists, do nothing more harmful than write letters of objection.


The death toll is now tipped to reach 230. Some say its a portent of what is to come in a climactically-altered world.

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