Daily News & Analysis
Mumbai, July 16: It was a sense of deja-vu for most Mumbaikars travelling along the Western Railway network on Saturday evening. The drill sounded all-too-familiar when the authorities made repeated announcements stating that they would not ply any trains between Bandra and Andheri due to a “technical snag”. It was only a matter of a few minutes before commuters heard about the bomb scare at Vile Parle station.
The Mumbai Cyber Crime Cell at Worli received an anonymous, out-of-station call from a man at 2:30pm, warning about a possible blast at 5pm at the station. The authorities wasted no time in alerting all the authorities concerned. Western Railway chief PRO Pranai Prabhakar said they received the information at 4pm. Officials reached Vile Parle station by 4:25pm with two bomb squads, four sniffer dogs, fire brigade officials and members from the Government Railway Police, Railway Protection Force and the local police, who were in charge of scanning the station and evacuating commuters from the area.
Local trains between Bandra and Andheri and long-distance trains passing through the two stations were stopped. Thousands stood stranded during the rush hour, amidst security arrangements which included 500 men of the Maharashtra Home Guards, between Churchgate and Virar, and another 500 guards between VT and Karjat. All train services were restored after a through inspection of Vile Parle station revealed that the call was a hoax. “We did not find anything suspicious, it was a bomb hoax. We were able to restore operations by 5:20pm,” said Prabhakar. Even as Mumbaikars heaved a sigh of relief over the bomb hoax, many commuters opted to travel by road. “We swung into action as soon as we were alerted by the police control room. All the necessary authorities were intimated and our people were out in full force to control the situation,” said Suresh Khopade, Commissioner of Police, Railways.
As one entered the Churchgate station at 4 pm on Saturday, crowds of people stood around in apprehensive silence, staring at dead indicators. “I don’t know whether it is
safe to travel yet. There is no information on why the service is disrupted,” said Sweta Soravli, a student from Sydenham College.
Another young student Savita Iyer, a rank holder in the HSC exams, had come from Andheri with parents to receive an honour certificate for her good academic performance. Many commuters who had travelled by one of the ill-fated trains on Tuesday were unwilling to take chances. Behroze Lala, primary school teacher at JJ School, arrived at the station and refused to board a train after the service resumed. She decided to go to Bandra by the Harbour branch.
Mahali Jadhav, 16, was travelling from Borivali. “At Andheri station, there was an announcement that the train would not go ahead of Andheri. I got off the train and took a rickshaw for Bandra. When I reached Bandra, trains had already running. Though I was scared, I took a train and got down at Bombay Central,” she said. Added Meenal Gosar, “I had gone shopping when I got a call that there was a bomb at Vile Parle which was being diffused. I am alone, have no clue how I will go home till Kandivali. Trains have started working but I will not go alone, I’m waiting for a friend, I’ll go with him.”
“There was a lot of panic,” said Altaf Jamadar, 35, a manager with a shipping company, who was travelling from CST to Andheri by the Harbour line. When the train reached Bandra, the passengers started getting off. “We heard an announcement that the train would go back to VT, and that trains to Andheri, Borivili and Virar had been temporarily stopped,” said Jamadar. “The first thing that crossed my mind was that there must have been another bomb blast.”
Uzra Siddiqui, a passenger, said a constable at the station told her that there was some technical flaw due to which the trains were not on time, but she later heard an announcement on the FM about a bomb hoax. “I heard some people say a bomb was recovered from the Vile Parle station but I was convinced it would be a rumour as such hoaxes follow big incidents like the Tuesday blasts,” said Aman Khirwarkar, who was on way to Bandra. The news of the hoax made some passengers panicky. Saurabh Kulkarni explained that his friend had been injured in the 7/11 blasts and he did not want to land in hospital.