Elphinstone overbridge: Rs. 12cr sanctioned but only Rs. 1,000 allotted
As the stampede on the overbridge connecting Mumbai's Elphinstone Road and Parel railway stations claimed 22 lives and injured about 32, it has been revealed that railways consistently ignored warnings tweeted by Mumbaikars and concerns raised by RS MP Sachin Tendulkar and Sena MP Arvind Sawant. Moreover, CNN-News18 reports that of Rs. 12cr sanctioned for Elphinstone overbridge's renovation, Rs. 1,000 was allotted for 2016-17.
Western Railways records amounts sanctioned and allocations made for various projects. This document reveals that the amount allocated to the bridge in 2016-17 was Rs. 1,000 which was raised to Rs. 35L for 2017-18, though the total sanctioned cost was Rs. 12cr. CNN-News18 was told that this amount is "representational" and actual amount will be decided once tender opens on November 9.
Many Mumbaikars had warned then-RM Suresh Prabhu about the Elphinstone overbridge's unsafe conditions. Journalist Santosh Andhale had tweeted about this bridge four days back asking the "government to do something." Boomlive scanned tweets posted by Mumbaikars. They found about 100 tweets since 2013 warned railways about this bridge with the keyword "stampede" present in most. However, the railways responded with a standard reply.
In February 2016, Prabhu had responded to MP Sawant that construction of a 12mts overbridge was being considered after the latter demanded a new Elphinstone overbridge. In August 2016, RS MP Sachin had asked the railways if they had "identified high-density stations to improve safety during peak hours." Railways had assured that provision of five new overbridges, including Elphinstone overbridge was "sanctioned in 2016-17."
Prabhu's office rejected allegations that "delay and negligence" on his side were responsible for this tragedy. Instead, they claimed Prabhu expedited the process of opening the tender for the overbridge to one year, though it usually takes more than three years. As this "passing the buck" continues, we'll have to see if railways learns its lesson and addresses this problem to avoid future accidents.