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വിജി പിണറായി

Viji Pinarayi

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Special Correspondent

Special Correspondent

(First - hand reports on various major incindents
that I was involved in / have witnessed in Mumbai)
മുംബൈ നഗരത്തില്‍ ഉണ്ടാകുന്ന, ഞാന്‍ ഉള്‍പ്പെട്ടതോ ദൃക്‌‌സാക്ഷിയായതോ ആയ
സുപ്രധാന സംഭവവികാസങ്ങളെക്കുറിച്ച്)

Listed below are a few snippets of the topics. Click the links to view complete text

 01. Bomb Blasts on Local Trains - When Terror rode by Local Trains
 Tuesday, 12 July 2006

Exactly thirteen years and four months after India's commercial capital became the target of first organized attack by terrorists, yesterday, 11th July 2006, Terror struck the most vicious blow on the very lifeline of Mumbai - the Suburban local train network, throwing the life of Mumbaikars completely out of gear. As thousands of daily commuters were on their way home after a tiring day's work, six railway stations along the Western suburban network witnessed massive blasts that ripped through bogies 'packed' with the evening rush - hour crowds. The blasts were so meticulously planned and timed to 'perfection' as to ensure the most devastating effect.

A couple of days after the blasts, the 'official records' put the death toll at around 300. However, anybody who has had at least a glimpse of the local trains during the 'peak hours' won't be able to 'swallow' these figures even with a pich of salt. On any given day, any normal - sized compartment of a peak - hour train would be carrying around 300 - 350 passengers, going by the Railways' own statistics. Given this scenario and the fact that at least a couple of the ill - fated bogies were completely destroyed in the blasts, the 'official death toll' would be nothing less than ridiculous.

In this anecdote, I am trying to take a look back at the events from the angle of those who were extremely lucky to have escaped from the teeth of Death. I think that I can visualize myself as one among them, that's why. Blasts had hit both ends of my daily commute - Jogeshwari, where my office is, and Mira Road, where I live. I had stayed back almost one hour after the office hours - and that meant had I left the office a few minutes earlier, I could have found myself aboard one of those 'doomed' trains - and this anecdote might very well have been a non - entity.

So, here I go - taking you along a brief narration of my experience with the most devastating attack Mumbai has witnessed till date...

 02. Local Train Boycot in Mumbai - When People scripted History
 Wednesday, 12 December 2007

On last Monday, 10th December 2007, the International Human Rights day, 30 lakh people living in the Borivali - Virar stretch on the Western Suburbs of Mumbai re-scripted the history of the city when they boycotted the very lifeline of Mumbai - the Suburban local train network. Ten lakh people who depend solely on the railway network for their daily commute in their bid to earn the day's bread united to form a single unit and kept away from travelling by trains, forcing the trains to run with near - empty coaches for almost one - third of their scheduled route. This unprecedented move was a mark of protest aginst the callous attitude and criminal negligence shown by the Western Railway administration towards the burning issue of lack of train services and resultant torture the commuters are forced to suffer, having to travel under conditions ripe for a second 'Wagon Tragedy'.

(To get a clearer picture of the scenario, try to visualize this: According to the Railway administration's statistics itself, it is estimated that 16 - 18 people travel 'packed together' occupying every square metre of space in the compartments of local trains plying during the morning and evening 'peak hours'. And here's another piece of statistics - even more alarming one: 3600 - 4000 people lose their lives every year by falling off the crowded trains plying on the Western suburban lines - That's almost 10 persons per day or one person every hour of peak - time. And this is 'official statisitics'. Think of the numerous deaths that go unaccounted for to see how horrible the conditions are.)

The people living in this belt have been raising demands for improving these conditions since years back. However, their repeated calls used to end up falling on deaf ears. However, with the advent of DYFI, the youth wing of the CPI (M), to the scenario in 2004 - 05, the situation started changing. They took the matter up as a human rights issue rather than merely a commuter problem. Repeated agitations led by the 'Pravaas Adhikar Andolan Samiti' (Right to Travel Agitation Committee) formed under the patronage of leaders and activists of DYFI and pressure - political and otherwise - from various quaters had succeeded in forcing Railway administration to take at least a few steps towards the goal of providing adequate facilities to the commuters and ensuring that they can travel with dignity. These earlier forms of agitations included a 'Rail Satyagraha' on 10th December 2005 which stalled the railway network for about six hours and a 'Youth March' on 10th December 2006 wherein hundreds of people, right from 8 - year old child to senior citizens in their sixties marched along parallel to the railway tracks covering a distance of 12 KM from Vasai to Mira Road.

However, even after all these agitations and numerous rounds of dialogues, the Railway administration continued its cold-hearted attitude towards the genuine, minimal demands of the public. It is under these circumstances that the PAAS decided to take the agitation to a higher plane and took the boldest step in history by giving a call for complete boycott of local trains for a full day. Irrespective of the past history, nobody - not even the leaders and activists of PAAS - had expected the call to be even a moderate success, let alone a runaway hit. The Railway administration had done everything possible to undermine the boycott call. However, what transpired on the day of rekoning defied all logic and calculations of the administration. The people, irrespective of their political affiliations, responded whole - heartedly to the boycott call, making it the biggest mass agitation Mumbai has ever witnessed since independence.

~ വിജി പിണറായി ~
~ Viji Pinarayi ~

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