The year was 2015. 21-year-old Bhavesh Nakate fell to his death off a local train between Kopar and Diva Junction in Mumbai.
The cause of death? An overcrowded compartment during peak hours.
The boy’s death was captured on a mobile phone in a viral video, which showed him hanging outside with just a loose grip on the steel pole inside the coach. Bhavesh wasn’t pulling a stunt. He was involuntarily standing on the edge trying to push his way inside. But the immense pressure from co-passengers, caused his hand to slip, pushing him off the train…to never board another local again.
His death sparked a debate about the life-threatening congestion in Mumbai locals in various government meetings and groups. But the measures to decongest these trains remained on paper, with absolutely no action on the ground.
“Perhaps in a situation like this, if the three to four guys standing in front of Bhavesh had given their bags to be kept on the racks, the boy would have gotten at least an additional 5 inches space to get in? It could have saved a life,” says 26-year-old Nishant Bangera – who kickstarted a campaign called ‘Bag Pakad Jagah Bana’ in an attempt to mobilise citizen action to decongest Mumbai trains.
Kicked off on 4th March 2014, the idea of the campaign by Nishant, who works in a travel company’s corporate communications department and runs a youth organisation called MUSE, is to decongest Mumbai local trains and save people from falling off.
The youngster, along with his like-minded friends, urged commuters on the locals to be empathetic towards their co-passengers.
“I realised that there were people on the train who had the luxury of sitting because they have boarded a train from an originating station. Besides sitting, it was common for most of these commuters to keep their bags on the storage racks. But all the other commuters who would get in at consequent stations, neither got the luxury of a seat nor space to keep their heavy bags on the rack.”
As per their math, if standing commuters were given space to keep their bags on racks, it would save and create an additional four sqft of space near the corridor. So, the idea was not only to convince people who are seated to hold their bags on their laps, freeing space on the racks but if possible they could help standing commuters with their bags too.
“This will not only to make additional room for more commuters to stand comfortably but also avoid people from being pushed to the edge by giving them space to get inside,” says Nishant, speaking to The Better India.
The group started off by first speaking to commuters on trains and handing them badges that had the ‘Bag Pakad Jagah Bana’ message. But soon enough they realised, it wasn’t cost-effective, and the reach of their message was limited.
To reach out to the masses, the group approached the Railways and made two demands in an application. The first was to make announcements which request people who sit to hold keep their bags with themselves, giving space to the standing. The second one was to give more hooks for keeping bags. (If you are a daily commuter in these trains, you might have noticed many passengers carrying their own hooks).
“If the announcements were regularly made, passengers would finally be aware of how one kind gesture could save someone’s life. Besides, the recall value of the message would increase, and people would no longer have to be told. The gesture would become part and parcel of their daily commute.”
When they applied to the Railways in 2015, requesting these two things, they didn’t get any encouragement from the authorities. In fact, their application lay unattended for over two years. But their spirit remained undeterred. They decided to revive the campaign in 2017 and applied to the Central Railways yet again.
They didn’t get a reply for over three months. When the efforts of the group were picked up by a city tabloid on the front page, the Railways were pressured to look into the initiative.
“We applied to the Central and Western railway, yet again. They have unofficially said that they are interested in the initiative and are impressed by our concept. Hopefully, take this ahead. So, I think after struggling for years, we have reached a happy conclusion,” says a hopeful Nishant.
“People are dying every day by slipping due to lack of space, ‘Bag Pakad, Jagah Bana’ is an idea that we propose which will contribute to solving the problem. Through promotional badges and social media messages, we tried conveying our message. We are also urging people to be sensitive enough and help others with their bags. ” he says.
We salute Nishant and his team for their relentless efforts towards fulfilling their civic responsibilities. We hope more and more people join them in their ‘Bag Pakad Jagah Banao’ campaign to make trains safer.
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