Citizens' Issues
How Mumbai’s local trains and double decker bus shocked a British transport expert
How Mumbai’s local trains and double decker bus shocked a British transport expert
 
"They run without doors?" was the first reaction of the alarmed Christian Wolmar, British transport expert, rail historian, author, journalist and the 2016 London mayoral candidate when he saw a crowded suburban local train pulling out of Churchgate station in Mumbai on his day-long visit.
 
Wolmar was in Mumbai as a part of his India tour for his new book on Indian Railways. Fascinated with trains and railways like me, Wolmar, first started as a transport journalist with The Independent and has been writing on transport issues since 1992. The award winning writer and broadcaster is also the author of a series of books on railway history. He was at Churchgate and Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) and spoke about a host of transport issues.
 
Earlier on his arrival, one the first photos that he had taken in Mumbai was that of the double-decker bus, calling it a “dishevelled Mumbai double decker with a platform at the back” tagging the Mayor of London, in his tweet. And he was correct as the Mumbai double deckers have been a British legacy and the last 120 buses that remain are diluted versions of the original Routemasters.
 
As I caught up with him at the Taj, Mumbai, he had bought for me a personally signed copy of the Iron Road, a fascinating account of hidden stories of railway history from the early steam train days to the high-speed bullet trains of today, a book authored by him that I had always wanted. It was quite an honour to get a copy from the person himself and that too a signed one. As the conversation moved to trains and railways, I suggested he should take a look at the city's two biggest rail terminals in Mumbai-- Churchgate and Mumbai CST and he readily agreed. 
 
We hopped into cab (after refusals from a few) and reached Churchgate station. It was a Saturday evening and crowds were thin, but still good enough as there had been a few train delays. After examining the automatic ticket vending machines with the suburban maps on them, we got a platform ticket and entered the platform, walking to the other end as he wanted to take a good look at the trains entering and leaving the station. Technically, a variety of EMU trains were standing next to each other -- a Bombardier class and a Siemens one. 
 
As we walked back after a brief photo session and as the train moved, Christian was alarmed that the train had started moving with open doors. As I explained to him later that the trains here were non-air-conditioned and there were ventilation issues if the doors got shut, he seemed convinced, but said it was a highly risky affair. “You die one way or the other, either by suffocation or via open doors,” said he and was quite stunned to know that about 10 people die on the suburban lines of Mumbai every day. After examining and admiring the functional 1936 British Ransomes and Rapiers heritage buffers on Churchgate platform, we took the pedestrian subway to crossover to the Western Railway headquarters building.
 
“There is chaos, crowd and people everywhere, but things in India are always at their functional best. This is the best part of the country,” he said as we walked the subway, half of it occupied by hawkers, half of it under repairs.
 
The next stop was the Churchgate heritage building. Since the offices and the heritage gallery are shut on the weekend, we were not allowed to enter the building premise but Christian was quite impressed by the Bilimora-Waghai (Gujarat) railway’s steam engine on display in the building premise. He took a lot of its pics of it saying, “it’s built in Stafford,” and tweeted one immediately, calling it one for the “grocers”, an informal term for trainspotters or rail fans. 
 
Quite fit for his age, he decided to walk it up from Churchgate to Mumbai CST so that we could discuss more of two cities –London and Mumbai. Walking up from the by-lanes of Fort and reaching Mumbai CST discussing about traffic and problems, he said Mumbai needs to encourage public transport more and that more Metro lines will be of help. “The Monorail is quite an out-dated mode of transit and I don’t know why Mumbai got one,” he wondered. 
At Mumbai CST, he took a few photographs of the DC and AC suburban trains in one premise, the Star Chamber and the jumble of train indicators. Wolmar had a train to catch the next day early morning to the south and after the photos sessions, we soon decided to end the adventure. On his way back to the Taj, Christian Wolmar had one thing to say about Mumbai railway- just fascinating!
 
(Rajendra B Aklekar has been a journalist for 20 years and author of Halt Station India, best-selling book on history of India's 1st railway line, short-listed for the non-fiction award at the Bangalore Literary Festival 2015)

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COMMENTS

Meenal Mamdani

1 year ago

Interesting article that captures the awe and disbelief of this veteran British transport enthusiast on seeing the busy Indian transport scene in Mumbai.
Looking forward to more from Mr. Aklekar and Mr. Wolmar.

Shirish Sadanand Shanbhag

1 year ago

Any foreigner will be surprised to see over crowded local trains in Mumbai, with passengers precariously hanging at the doors of the local trains.

REPLY

bharati

In Reply to Shirish Sadanand Shanbhag 1 year ago

The first train was paid for and run by Shankershett and Tata. As long as people continue to breed beyond any reason or requirement, overcrowding, scarcity and the related corruption will remain problems. Birth control must be seen as an essential national requirement for some years. No one should breed unless they are willing and able to care for a child for about 20 years.

Indian telecom regulator declines discriminatory data pricing
New Delhi : The Indian telecom regulator on Monday said no service provider should offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data on the basis of content.
 
"No service provider shall enter into any arrangement, agreement or contract, by whatever name called, with any person, natural or legal, that has the effect of discriminatory tariffs for data services being offered or charged to the consumer on the basis of content," the sector regulator said in the notification.
 
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India chairman R.S. Sharma said: "No service provider shall charge differential charges based on source, destination, application and content."
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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Headley exposes Pakistan's role in 2008 Mumbai terror strike
Mumbai : Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist-turned-approver David Coleman Headley on Monday revealed a goldmine of information for Indian authorities on various aspects leading to the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, while deposing via video conference from a US jail before Special TADA Court Judge G.A. Sanap here.
 
Among the stunning disclosures was a hitherto unknown fact that two unsuccessful attempts were made in Mumbai in September and October 2008 which failed, before the final strike at multiple locations in south Mumbai on November 26-29, 2008.
 
He spilled the names of officials connected to the Pakistan Army and spoke of their role, its dreaded Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the LeT and others who were involved in the conspiracy, planning and execution of the 26/11 attacks which killed 166 people and injured hundreds more.
 
"Headley has made several sensitive revelations. We are satisfied with the evidence," said a pleased Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam.
 
Headley also named LeT founder Hafiz Saeed and his close associate Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi -- both suspected right from the beginning since the investigations were launched by Indian agencies after the attacks.
 
Naming two people directly linked with the Pakistan Army and the ISI -- Major Iqbal and Major Ali -- Headley unravelled how he was arrested by the Pakistan Army around 2002 when he was going to meet a drug smuggler to make arrangements to send arms and ammunitions consignments to Kashmiri groups fighting the Indian Army.
 
The two army majors also supervised his two-year-long training by the LeT at a camp in Muzaffarabad, which is in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), he added.
 
Admitting he was a functionary with the LeT, Headley identified a picture of his main contact in the terror group - Sajid Mir - and LeT founder Hafiz Saeed and said he was "inspired" by Saeed's fiery speeches to join and was trained by the terrorist group in 2002.
 
Both Saeed and Lakhvi used to address these terror training camps, while others like Abu Furkad, Sanaullah, Abu Hanzala, Abu Saif, Abu Fahadullah and Abu Usman were his trainers, he said.
 
In those two years, he was given leadership training, how to handle AK-47 assault rifles, bombs and explosives.
 
To a query by Nikam on "sophisticated weapons training", Headley said if an AK-47 was sophisticated, then he was trained to operate it.
 
About the motive behind joining the LeT, Headley said he wanted to assist the Kashmiris fighting against the Indian Army in the border state.
 
But, when he desired to join the Kashmiris, Saeed dissuaded him and said he had another "important assignment" for him in mind.
 
On the two unsuccessful attempts to wreak havoc in Mumbai that year, Headley said 10 terrorists were to strike in the first attempt in September 2008, but the terrorists' boat hit some rocks in the Arabian Sea, resulting in loss of weapons and ammunition, but those on board survived as they wore life jackets.
 
The second attempt came in October, with the same people involved as in the first, but that also failed for unknown reasons, before the third and successful attack was executed on November 26 that year, he said.
 
Headley provided details of his passport with an American name and spoke of his 7-8 trips to Mumbai and one to New Delhi between 2006 and 2008 before the 26/11 attacks.
 
The trips included seven via Pakistan and one via the UAE. He made yet another trip to Mumbai on March 7, 2009, after the terror attack was successfully executed.
 
Sajid Mir, his LeT handler who had advised him to change his name even in the passport, had told him to make general video shoots of various locations in Mumbai.
 
To a question by Nikam, Headley named one person -- Raymond Sanders, a visa consultant, who helped him procure Indian visa in Chicago.
 
However, Headley said most of the information on his visa application was false -- except his birth date and place, mother's name and nationality and the passport number -- as he did not want to blow his cover or get detected by Indian agencies.
 
Earlier, Headley, 56, said he was born on June 30, 1960, in the US and shifted to Pakistan later where he changed his name to Daood Sayeed Gilani, which was appreciated by Hafiz Saeed and others in LeT.
 
Flanked by three people at an undisclosed location in the US -- his attorney John, US attorney Sarah and a person identified merely as Bob -- Headley was administered the oath at 7.30 a.m. and Special Public Prosecutor Nikam started firing questions at him.
 
"The evidence coming out today could be very significant," said eminent lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani, who is helping out Headley's attorneys in connection with the procedural issues pertaining to Indian laws.
 
Another LeT functionary, Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal, who is now facing trial in the 26/11, appeared through video-conferencing from Arthur Road Central Jail, appeared irked by Headley's revelations and was seen taking notes.
 
At a previous hearing on December 10 last year, the special TADA court judge had pardoned Headley and made him an approver in the case, subject to certain conditions.
 
Headley had already confessed to his role in the offences in the US for which he is seving a 35-year sentence.
 
The five-hour court proceedings -- which will resume on Tuesday -- were held here amidst tight security with over 100 policemen deployed in and around the Mumbai City Civil and Sessions Court.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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COMMENTS

Simple Indian

1 year ago

I have had no doubt that, for decades, the USA has been indirectly waging a war against India, by offering financial and military aid to Pakistan, knowing fully well that much its aid finds its way into the terror outfits based in Pakistan, like the LeT, JeM, Mujahideen, etc. Many of these outfits are believed to have been "created" and "nurtured" by Pakistan's ISI to be India-centric. While this must surely be known to our top RAW and other security agencies, I wonder why India has never raised this issue in international fora, like the UN. US has always played a double-game with India, by offering trade ties and such, while funding terror in Pak all along. Pity, no Indian leader is willing / daring enough to call US's bluff.

REPLY

shadi katyal

In Reply to Simple Indian 1 year ago

It is no secret that any aid given by USA to Pakistan is niot cash and thus your arguments have no leg to stand. The Billions oif Dollars mnentioned as aid are cost of equipment and even if there is any inflow of cash, there is no way UDSA cannot control as there is no accountbility.
India has never been friendly to USA in the past despite USA trying to help India . We always felt our God given duty to use any method to sp[eak against West and particulrly USA. Duyring Cold War days Pakistan allowed sorties from her soil over Russia and thus became more friendly while we continue to show our true colours as in your letter.
Every nation tried to protect her own but we try to tell the world what is good for them. We had and have no friends as we are our worst enemy. Kindly tell us who came to India help in 1962 when Chinese invaded. Did any of those impotent Non Alligned nation even spoke a word.
KGB had a good hold on India and issued misinformatiuon of about 5,000 articles against USA and it distrubs me that we forget our behavior and find faults with other nations.
Pakistan has deep deep hooks in USA state dept,Pentafgon and Congress and that is why no acion was taken when supply convey were held up and looted.We only criticise instead of creating friendly relations.

shadi katyal

1 year ago

One wonder why has it taken so long to bring this to court. Pakistan will never admit as ISI controls Pakistan present Govt.\
One question which has never been answered about his VISA and who gave and what if any action taken against such officer.
Similary what happened to Ms. Gupta who passed documnets to ISI lover while she was posted in Pakistan.
Why did India not disclose Hedlay visits to India before this.

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