Mumbai has had a tumultuous month. On 31 August, a building collapsed in the heavily populated district of Bhendi Bazaar; it is suspected that heavy rains contributed to the building’s instability. Many residents were trapped underneath; the collapse killed 33. Disaster struck Mumbai again on September 29, when a mix-up at the Prabhadevi railway station resulted in a stampede that left 23 to 27 dead and almost 40 injured.
Details regarding the cause of the stampede are unknown; however, there is wide speculation that heavy rain showers were the main factors of the frenzy that initiated the stampede. Government officials have gathered in the Mumbai area to investigate further and to give their condolences to the families of the victims.
The Prabhadevi Station in Mumbai, India was mid-rush hour at 10:30am. This railway network, spread across 8000 stations across India, carries upwards of 23 million passengers daily, and, with the constant rain over the past few weeks, the flow of people was disrupted by one person slipping on the staircase. The stampede started on the footbridge located underneath the train station but soon spread to take over a large portion of the platform. Through an immense domino effect, more people starting falling and tripping over each other. People began jumping over the railing of the footbridge to escape the stampede while others remained subject to trampling underfoot. Survivor Brijesh Upadhyay describes the scene as “suffocating” and that “we just wanted to get out of there – and fell on each other.”
The events that occurred in Mumbai illustrate larger problems that is pervasive throughout India: a lack of regulation and proper infrastructure. Although India has a large and partially urban population, there is still a lack of conformity to laws regarding safety. In the last year alone, almost 800 buildings in Mumbai were declared unsafe. As Al-Jazeera’s Divya Gopalan voiced, “landlords often don’t want to pay for what could be extensive repairs, whiles tenants refuse to move out as property prices here are sky-high – some of the most expensive in the world.” Combined with a high number of aging buildings in Mumbai, these factors can often result in tragedies like the one that occurred in Ariswala – tragedies that happen at an alarming frequency.
Furthermore, overpopulation is a pressing issue in India. Because India has a larger population than any country except China, its cities are often overcrowded. For this reason, India’s public transportation system can be overwhelmed, especially in older stations like Prabhadevi, which was built in 1867. There have been calls for the station to be renovated, but they have largely been ignored by Indian railway authorities. Highlighting the extent to which the railway station is inadequate, the footbridge on which the stampede occurred was built before 1900s. While there had calls for it to be widened before the stampede, it is only after the stampede that railway authorities have chosen to pay attention.
Coauthored by Hana Pak and Sahil Malhotra