Police clash with passengers at Diva Station in Mumbai after rail traffic was disrupted following violent public protests (Press Trust of India photo)
Lakhs of passengers in Mumbai were affected on Friday as the city's Central Railway came to a grinding halt following widespread violence over the disruption in suburban train services in Thane. Angry commuters pelted stones at trains, damaging 10 rakes and injuring one motorman.
An overhead wire reportedly snapped triggering sparking from a train that was approaching Diva near Thane, according to passengers. As the train came to a standstill, the schedule was thrown into disarray, with huge delays.
Railways sources say vandals from nearby slums joined the protesters, adding to the chaos and delaying trains further.
Three cars were torched and railway property was damaged. Policemen were deployed to ensure the security of motormen, who refused to drive trains after protesters turned violent.
"The fear that we had of facing people's rage was resolved by providing us the security we asked for," said Venu Nair, General Secretary of the Motormen Union.
The situation improved only after the police stepped in and resorted to a mild lathicharge. The incident has raised serious questions over the maintenance of rolling stock on Central Railways. Obsolete technology and an ageing fleet have led to frequent breakdowns, irking passengers.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis tweeted, "We will look into the reasons of disruption and work on corrective course for future."
Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu, who was in the city, said firm steps will be taken by rail authorities to ensure that the problems faced by commuters due to overload of passengers are eased.