Mumbai rail stampede

Mumbai rail stampede: In KEM hospital, survivors come to grips with cracked bones and broken dreams

A teenager from Uttar Pradesh wants to go home. A Ghatkopar man knew a tragedy like this was inevitable. A job seeker from Vashi rues a missed opportunity.

On Saturday, an uncharacteristic silence enveloped the casualty wing of Mumbai’s KEM Hospital, where victims of the previous day’s stampede at Elphinstone Road station were taken. Twenty two people had died in the tragedy in the midtown Mumbai office district on Friday. Thirty two commuters of the 39 admitted with injuries are still in hospital, many in shock and unable to sleep. “Our doctors are counselling the patients,” said Dr Avinash Supe, the hospital’s dean.

Two of the patients decided to seek discharge from KEM against medical advice and moved to other hospitals. On Saturday afternoon, Satyendra Kanojia, 35, who had been on ventilator support, died at the hospital, taking the death toll in the tragedy to 23.

How are the others doing?

I could not sleep the whole night’

Wasim Shaikh, 30

Wasim Shaikh works in Vashi. On Friday, he had left home in Mumbra for a job interview at an office in Indiabulls Finance Center on Elphinstone Road. He never made it. “Now, I don’t know if I will get another opportunity,” he said.

Shaikh has suffered abrasions to his head and is having difficulty breathing. “I had a headache all night, the screams are echoing in my head still,” he said. Shaikh lay in his mother’s lap. She pressed his head, praying that the “bad memories” leave him soon.

My family is very scared’

Iklesh Kumar Chaudhary, 17

Iklesh Kumar Chaudhary came to Mumbai from Allahabad a month ago, looking for a job. Chaudhary’s employer has assured him that he can take a few days off to recuperate. “I came to this city to make money and support my family,” he said. Pinned down by the weight of several people who fell on him, Chaudhary was hurt in the chest. “My hands and legs stopped moving,” he said, recounting the horror.

There were not enough ambulances at Elphinstone Road station to ferry victims to the hospital, so someone picked up Chaudhary and put him in a taxi. “My family is very scared, they want me to go back,” he said. “But what will I do in my village. I have to stay in Mumbai to make a living.”

“I am lucky’

Piyush Thakkar, 23

For the last four years, Piyush Thakkar has taken the congested foot overbridge at Elphinstone Road station to go to his office. Lying in his bed in ward six of KEM Hospital, Thakkar recalled how fellow commuters would always murmur that the Indian Railways would expand the bridge only after 20-25 people died. “I never thought that I would witness this mishap,” he said.

Thakkar, a resident of Ghatkopar in eastern Mumbai, held up a newspaper to show visiting relatives and friends a photograph of the incident. He was in it. “I am lucky to have survived,” he said. “I jumped over the railing to save my life. Fortunately someone held me and I didn’t fall on the ground.”

Thakkar’s brother Rajnesh has petitioned the Government Railway Police asking them to expand the bridge. “They told us that there is no space to expand it,” he said. “They gave permission to all these builders to construct these high-rise offices but forgot to expand the station.”

I don’t want to come back to Mumbai’

Jeetendra Singh, 18

Jeetendra Singh came to Mumbai from Uttar Pradesh two months ago. He lives with his brother in Sion and has a job at a wholesale shop on Elphinstone Road. He was going to the shop when he was caught in the stampede. “Last thing I remember is vomiting blood,” he recalled. A few days ago, Singh had booked train tickets home.

“I came here to earn money, not to die,” said Singh, who has suffered a pelvic fracture and may need several months to recuperate. “I don’t want to come back.”

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Do you really need to use that plastic straw?

The hazards of single-use plastic items, and what to use instead.

In June 2018, a distressed whale in Thailand made headlines around the world. After an autopsy it’s cause of death was determined to be more than 80 plastic bags it had ingested. The pictures caused great concern and brought into focus the urgency of the fight against single-use plastic. This term refers to use-and-throw plastic products that are designed for one-time use, such as takeaway spoons and forks, polythene bags styrofoam cups etc. In its report on single-use plastics, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has described how single-use plastics have a far-reaching impact in the environment.

Dense quantity of plastic litter means sights such as the distressed whale in Thailand aren’t uncommon. Plastic products have been found in the airways and stomachs of hundreds of marine and land species. Plastic bags, especially, confuse turtles who mistake them for jellyfish - their food. They can even exacerbate health crises, such as a malarial outbreak, by clogging sewers and creating ideal conditions for vector-borne diseases to thrive. In 1988, poor drainage made worse by plastic clogging contributed to the devastating Bangladesh floods in which two-thirds of the country was submerged.

Plastic litter can, moreover, cause physiological harm. Burning plastic waste for cooking fuel and in open air pits releases harmful gases in the air, contributing to poor air quality especially in poorer countries where these practices are common. But plastic needn’t even be burned to cause physiological harm. The toxic chemical additives in the manufacturing process of plastics remain in animal tissue, which is then consumed by humans. These highly toxic and carcinogenic substances (benzene, styrene etc.) can cause damage to nervous systems, lungs and reproductive organs.

The European Commission recently released a list of top 10 single-use plastic items that it plans to ban in the near future. These items are ubiquitous as trash across the world’s beaches, even the pristine, seemingly untouched ones. Some of them, such as styrofoam cups, take up to a 1,000 years to photodegrade (the breakdown of substances by exposure to UV and infrared rays from sunlight), disintegrating into microplastics, another health hazard.

More than 60 countries have introduced levies and bans to discourage the use of single-use plastics. Morocco and Rwanda have emerged as inspiring success stories of such policies. Rwanda, in fact, is now among the cleanest countries on Earth. In India, Maharashtra became the 18th state to effect a ban on disposable plastic items in March 2018. Now India plans to replicate the decision on a national level, aiming to eliminate single-use plastics entirely by 2022. While government efforts are important to encourage industries to redesign their production methods, individuals too can take steps to minimise their consumption, and littering, of single-use plastics. Most of these actions are low on effort, but can cause a significant reduction in plastic waste in the environment, if the return of Olive Ridley turtles to a Mumbai beach are anything to go by.

To know more about the single-use plastics problem, visit Planet or Plastic portal, National Geographic’s multi-year effort to raise awareness about the global plastic trash crisis. From microplastics in cosmetics to haunting art on plastic pollution, Planet or Plastic is a comprehensive resource on the problem. You can take the pledge to reduce your use of single-use plastics, here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of National Geographic, and not by the Scroll editorial team.