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Churchgate Makeover

In a few days from now, Churchgate, which is one of the main terminuses of the Western Railway (WR), will get its much-hyped makeover. Three sides of the historic building will now be gleaming walls of glass. Even as WR officials proudly declare that the terminus would be the first on the Indian Railways to sport such a sleek modern look, hundreds of employees working at the station are a rather disgruntled lot. 

It may be world class from the outside, they said, but the interiors are "third class." The building houses 2,000-odd WR employees and several hundred others from various departments. 

Employees pointed out the various aspects that are in need of immediate attention: leakages that have caused moss to grow on the walls, heaps of garbage, old files and furniture dumped in passageways, and worst, portions of the ceiling that have given way, exposing the iron beams. 

"A few months ago, a huge portion of the ceiling came crashing down. It was sheer luck that I was not in office at that time. Instead of spending large amounts on cosmetic changes, WR should look at making the building safe. However, nothing has been done till now," said an employee who works on the seventh floor of the building. 

A memorandum submitted by the Western Railway Mazdoor Sangh to the GM, noted that the drainpipes are more than 20 years old and have become narrower due to the collection of dirt and silt in them. The toilets are dirty and leaking, there is no plan in place to combat fires and there is no water supply after 4 pm. The memorandum also states that the water, supplied by a tanker, is contaminated and not potable. As per the report of the health inspector of Lower Parel in February 2010, the water is unfit for human consumption. 

And now, the glass facade is causing more problems, employees say. "There is no cross-ventilation as the glass directly covers the windows. When we asked them to put the solid glass only over the walls and leave the windows open, they refused, saying that the design of the building would be spoilt, said Ajay Singh, divisional secretary, WRMS. 

A woman employee on the second floor, over whose window the glass has already been placed, said. "The office has become so dark and warm. I dread to think what it will be like in summer," she said. 

Union leaders on Tuesday said that they were even willing to break the glass facade and halt services — unless the authorities agree to renovate the building from inside and make it fully air conditioned. 

"Railway officials promised that we would meet to discuss the issue on February 7.