The Western Railway (WR) authorities have blamed the rain for Elphinstone bridge stampede that killed 23 people. Giving a clean chit to the railway officials, a five-member committee of senior officials headed by the Chief Safety Officer of the Western Railway said, "The incident was caused due to panic and confusion created on the bridge coupled with rains. No one can be held responsible for the incident."
"Rumours and panic created due to rains has been attributed to be the cause for the stampede," Ravinder Bhaker, Chief Public Relations Officer, WR said.
The panel, headed by the Western Railway chief security officer, submitted its report to WR General Manager Anil Kumar today after recording statements of 30 commuters who were injured.
It has also examined video footage of the incident, officials said.
According to the report, the stampede was caused by heavy rains which forced people outside at the ticket counters to rush to the already jammed staircase for cover.
It said the constant flow of passengers arriving at the station compounded the problem.
Key conclusions from the report
* Rumours and panic created due to rains has been attributed to be the cause for the stampede
* People with heavy luggage lost their balance because of which the stampede may have occurred.
* None of the witnesses supported the claim of a short circuit on the bridge leading to the chaos.
* Constant flow of passengers arriving at the station compounded the problem.
Suggestions submitted by the probe panel
— Passengers must be prevented from carrying heavy luggage during peak hours.
— The movement of commuters, mainly vendors, carrying baskets stuffed with goods during peak hours should also be restricted.
— Relocate the elevated booking office to widen the staircase (the elevated booking office is adjacent to the staircase where the stampede occurred).
— An additional staircase can also be provided.
— Officials should use a quick mode of communication apart from mobile phones to ensure timely reaction.
— Wireless handsets can be provided to station and security staff
Bombay High Court blames activists
The Bombay High Court, last week, castigated "so-called activists" for approaching it on the issue of safety of commuters only after the Elphinstone Road station stampede and asked why they woke up to the "serious and sensitive" issue only after the death of so many people.
At least 23 people died and over 30 were injured in the stampede that took place on a narrow foot-over-bridge (FoB) that connects the Elphinstone Road on the Western Railway to Parel on the Central line.
Soon after the mishap, four public interest litigations (PILs) were filed in the high court seeking directions to the railways to take measures to ensure that such an incident is not repeated at any other railway station.
The HC noted that only after so many people died that the activists realised and came up with petitions.
"The station concerned and bridge is in existence since 1867, according to the petitions. Till date...till 23 people died...till the incident everybody closed their eyes to the problem. Now after the incident, these so-called activists have woken up and come with PILs," a division bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice N M Jamdar said.
"The cause is serious. This is a serious problem but these petitioners before us only want to self advertise. We are of the opinion that the cause is serious and sensitive and hence we will appoint a lawyer as amicus curiae to assist us in the matter," Chief Justice Chellur said.
The bench was hearing two PILs - one by Thane resident Vikrant Tawde seeking judicial inquiry into the stampede and another filed by Smita Mayank Dhruva, president of Congress's South Mumbai division, seeking railways to take measures for better crowd management.
"All these prayers the petitioners should have sought before the incident," Justice Jamdar said.
The high court has posted the petitions for further hearing after four weeks.