Using transparency law like the RTI Act, one can obtain crucial information and help lakhs of daily commuters across the Mumbai suburban network, says activist Samir Zaveri who doggedly fights for the rights of those who are affected by corruption or the sheer apathy of railway officials
Accidents, corruption and chaos are everywhere and Mumbai with its population of over 1.25 crore is no exception to this. The once efficient suburban rail network is the lifeline of Mumbai, however over the past two decades, it is creaking under the weight of passenger influx, corruption and lack of investment in upgrading infrastructure. The extraordinary crowding of trains and poor commuter facilities as stations makes the Mumbai suburban train system so prone to accidents that nearly 10 people die in railway mishaps everyday - a figure that would have made front page news anywhere else in the world but meets with apathy in India. In this situation, one individual works relentlessly to help improve passenger facilities, introduce ambulance services, ensure that accident victims are given immediate medical aid and taken to the nearest hospital so that people do not bleed to death. Speaking at Moneylife Foundation, Mr Zaveri cited innumerable examples of small victories and key successes to encourage people to come forward and use the Right to Information (RTI) Act to deliver better services for ordinary Mumbaikars. What makes Mr Zaveri's dedication more remarkable is that he lost both his legs in a railway accident when he was just 16. Had he not been helped in time by some kind souls, he would have bled to death like thousands of others, he say. It explains his untiring efforts to reach aid to victims in the first "golden hour" after an accident during which a live can be saved, otherwise too many people simply bleed to death on the way to a hospital or waiting for help.
Mr Zaveri identifies a few key problems. First, the non-avialabillity of ambulances at most local stations. He describes a long fight to have a medical room started at Dadar. Sadly, the absence of follow up vigilance by communters has ensured that railway officials now use it as a rest room. Railways and police also hesitate for sending the victim to nearest hospital unless it is a government hospital, despite orders from the Bombay High Court, Mr Zaveri said.
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On hard won battle of Mr Zaveri is to ensure that accident victims are taken to the nearest hospital, rather than a government hospital that may be far away. Thanks to his efforts the Bombay high court has directed railway authorities to take arrange to get victims admitted to the nearest hopsital even if it is a private one, but such is the apathy of railway offiicals, that this is rarely followed. In fact, it is Mr Zaveri who follows up on accident victims to check which hospital they have been taken to and inform them of their rights.
This apathy leads to many tragic deaths on the way to hospitals. Between 2002 and 2012, Mumbai's local train network witnessed 36,152 deaths while 36,688 people were injured, making it one of the most dangerous rail network across the world.
While help for accident victims is a big part of Mr Zaveri's effort, an obvious corollary is the scandalous extortion and robbery of railway passengers that he reports. He narrated several true stories about ticket collectors or the railway police extorting money from railways passengers. In many cases, he has managed to help victims of theft by working with them to file complaints and follow them with with a RTI application if required.
"All it needs is an application and a Rs10 court fee stamp", says Samir Zaveri, trying to get more people involved in the huge war that will be required if corruption in the railways has to lead to systemic change rather than episodic results.
One of Samir Zaveri's biggest triumphs has been his expose of a fake bail bond scam run by none other than Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel at Kurla station. In fact, he found to his horror that the railways were running a fake court, where a constable or official posed as judge and issued fake bail bonds to let off hapless travellers, after robbing them of their hard earned savings. Since an official looking bond was issued to them, most people presumed that they were genuinely punished and very few had the knowledge or ability to fight the corrupt system.
Samir Zaveri too was nearly defeated by the corrupt cabal, who had the audicity to try and implicate him in fake cases with dangerously serious allegations of kidnapping and murder.
It is to his credit that he fought it out with a whole team of well-wisher and activists who helped him navigate the courts and then help from numerous sympathetic judges.
A case is pending before the court and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has sought permission from the Magistrate’s Court for conducting scientific tests on 12 accused personnel of RPF. In the fake bail bond case, the RPF was compelled to dismiss one of its inspectors and also to suspend 21 of its personnel.
Mr Zaveri, a self-taught expert, with a strong support network of well-wishers, has used the Right to Information or RTI Act very effectively to obtain some incredible information that benefited railway commuters. He also narrated his experiences while dealing with victims, rail administration, police and hospitals.
An interesting feature of the Moneylife workshop was that several activists who have been fighting corruption, over-crowding and other railway related issues were present today to support Mr Zaveri. Among these was a Mr Deepak Gandhi, president of Mumbai Suburban Passengers Association who has been fighting the cause of railway passengers for 50 years. Mr Gandhi, like Mr Zaveri made the point that unless more railway commuters get involved and choose to join the efforts to pressure officials to improve the system, nothing would change. Madhu Kotian, president, Mumbai Rail Pravasi Sangh who was present at the meeting also said that getting more people to join the movement against railway apathy was key to improving Mumbai's transport system.
At the end of the session, most people who attended, decided that those concerned about the state of Mumbai's railway system would meet on the first Saturday of every month, to exchange notes, support one another's activities and find ways to take up more issues through different persons. Those interested in being a part of this may please write to Moneylife Foundation at [email protected] This event was supported by www.karmayog.org
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Although the uptrend is still on, a close below the day’s low may pull down the Nifty further
The market closed mildly in the positive this week on cautiousness as both Houses of Parliament voted on allowing FDI (foreign direct investment) in retail. This makes it a third weekly close in the green. Key economic indicators like industrial output numbers and headline inflation, which would be released next week, would be keenly watched by investors.
The Sensex closed the week at 19,424, up 84 points (0.44%) and the Nifty gained 28 points (0.47%) to 5,907. While the uptrend is not broken, a close below the day’s low may pull down the Nifty further.
The market started the week on a subdued note as cautiousness prevailed ahead of the vote on FDI in Parliament. The market closed with minor gains on Tuesday even as the Lok Sabha began its debate on allowing FDI in retail in the country. Hopes of the government garnering the requisite number of votes in the Lok Sabha on the FDI issue led the benchmarks higher on Wednesday.
The market settled in the green on Thursday on late buying resulted as the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party asserted her willingness to vote in favour of FDI in retail in the Rajya Sabha. On Friday, the market pared all its gains in the second half of trade and settled lower even as the government won the vote in the Rajya Sabha on FDI in retail.
The top sectoral gainers were BSE Realty (up 5%) and BSE Oil & Gas (up 3%). On the other hand, BSE IT (down 4%) and BSE TECk (down 3%) were the main losers in the week.
State Bank of India, Hindalco Industries (up 6% each), Reliance Industries (up 5%); BHEL and Sterlite Industries (up 4% each) were the key gainers on the Sensex in the week. On the other hand, Infosys (down 5%), Bharti Airtel (down 4%), TCS, Wipro (down 3% each) and HDFC Bank (down 2%) settled at the bottom of the index.
The chief Nifty gainers were Jaiprakash Associates (up 9%); SBI (up 7%), Hindalco Ind (up 6%), RIL and DLF (up 5% each). The major losers were HCL Technologies (down 6%), Infosys (down 5%), Bharti Airtel, TCS (down 4% each) and Grasim Industries (down 3%).
The HSBC India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI)—a measure of factory production—stood at 53.7 in November, up from 52.9 in October, registering the fastest pace in five months.
On the other hand, the HSBC's Services PMI for November declined to 52.1 in November, down from 53.8 in the previous month, signalling the slowest rate of expansion in the current 13-month sequence. The index has witnessed significant decline in the last two months after registering the fastest pace of growth in seven months in September.
In international news, US policy makers are struggling to find ways to avoid the “fiscal cliff”, when tax increases and spending cuts come into effect in the New Year. This apart the Federal Open Market Committee’s (FOMC) two-day meeting next week is expected to maintain the easy monetary policy till the labour market sees an improvement.
Meanwhile, Bundesbank, the German central bank, cut its 2013 projection to 0.4% from the 1.6% predicted in June and said the economy will grow 0.7% this year, down from its previous forecast of 1%.
People with dubious political antecedents are seen jumping on to the AAP bandwagon. Unless Kejriwal and team find a way to deal with such situations, some of these unguided enthusiasts or maybe even deliberately planted infiltrators can do a lot of damage to the AAP