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Monday, January 7, 2013

concrete balls hung on railway line ~ prevent roof top travel


Can you imagine what these are ? These are hanging concrete balls installed in Indonesian Capital of Jakarta. Why would somebody put these big sized concrete balls ringed together ~  difficult to tell !!! ~ can it be intended to cause some malice ?

Pongal festival is coming ~ people working in cities go back to their native places; so many would be travelling that it would be impossible to get tickets in trains, buses and.. other modes..   It is indeed a natural desire for people staying away from home for months to get back to their places, see their parents and relatives, be with friends …   not all are fortunate to get reservation and not all places are well connected – or even when you have many trains and buses – all of them are full beyond their capacity.  And when crowds swell, they occupy all places – nothing as ‘reserved’ when everybody is everywhere…. Fortunately people do not dare travel on top of trains, which is a commonsight in some other parts of India, Bangladesh and Indonesia and ………… some other countries.

Why would people perch on tops of speeding trains endangering their safety defies logic but it happens. Last year, there was a gruesome accident in which at least 15 youngsters travelling on the rooftop of a train were squashed by a low overbridge near Shahjahanpur in Uttar Pradesh, but even the next day hundreds could be spotted in Gurgaon railway station  risking their lives in the same manner. The Gurgaon-Rewari railway route has a bloody history of its own.

There certainly are laws that prohibit journey on the rooftop of trains, railway authorities could not  enforce them and passengers don't follow them.  There are more commuters than Railways can hold; Everybody knows traveling on rooftop of a train is unsafe still people flock to Railways as it is cheaper and faster. Some would cite silly reasons as it being more airy, to some the risk thrills.  Railways do not enforce it strictly and do not fine them due to lack of staff.   It is not limited to Gurgaon, an instance of an youngster getting electrocuted by heavily charged overhead wires was reported in Mumbai suburban service. A couple of years ago,  the current coursing through overhead cables increased from 1,500-volt direct current (DC) to 25,000-volt alternating current (AC).  By some accounts, if a person even ventures within a 2-meter radius, there is a good chance he will be sucked in by the current, and the resulting electric shock may be fatal.

Trains that crisscross Indonesia on poorly maintained tracks left behind by Dutch coloniser six decades ago are usually packed with passengers, especially during rush hour. Indonesia is taking some measures to curb this menace. Indonesia has gone to imaginative extremes to try and stop commuters from illegally riding on the roofs of train - from hosing them down with red paint to threatening them with dogs. Now they have gone for a more intimidating one.    The picture that you saw at the start of the post are large-sized concrete balls strung  above railway lines to stop 'roof riders'. Railways in Indonesia have hung these concrete balls above train tracks at select places in order to prevent commuters from riding on carriage roofs. The first balls were installed just above carriage-height near a station outside the capital, Jakarta. Previous attempts to deter roof riders included spraying roofs with paint, spreading oil on carriages and hiring musicians to perform safety songs. Reportedly, all those initiatives failed and this is hoped to be the ultimate deterrent. Roof riders also face the possibility of imprisonment.

The authorities there believe, that these balls would deliver serious blows to the head if they didn't knock a person off the roof of a train - will be enough to deter 'train surfers'. In 2008, at least 53 passengers died in accidents after boarding train roofs, according to the BBC. Most victims were electrocuted by overhead power cable, but some fall off as they trains are moving. At peak times, 400,000 commuters cram into, or on, train carriages into the capital. Poorer people often end up on train roofs because they are unable to afford tickets.

Looks cruel and barbaric but that menace of voluntarily endangering life has to end somehow.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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