People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 30

July 25, 2010






Playing with People’s Lives


YET another rail accident has claimed over 60 lives and has left over a hundred seriously injured.  Yet another conspiracy theory has been woven by the union railway minister.  It is, indeed, a shame for our country that we have, in the present political leadership of UPA-II government, ministers for whom precious human life comes so cheap that death does not even merit a thoughtful moment of human sadness and sympathy.  Sabotage theories have come even before the customary expression of pretensions of remorse on such occasions.  The railway board, following the cue from the minister, has declared that it does not rule out sabotage with its chairman hinting at “willful interference”. 


Between May 2009 when this UPA-II government assumed office and July 2010, there have been 16 major rail accidents in which at least 269 people lost their lives and over a thousand seriously injured.  If all minor incidents are taken into account, then there have been 162 accidents since May 2009 in which 428 people died. 


Absolving herself of any responsibility or moral torment, the railway minister, at the accident site said, “I am suspicious about the cause of the accident.  We have some doubt in our mind.  Whatever happened is not a casual thing.  We will take strong steps against those who are behind this.”  On May 28, 2010, following the derailment and collision of the Jnaneswari Express in West Bengal that killed 149 people, the minister said: “There was a political conspiracy behind the derailment. I feel bad at the way the incident was engineered to fulfill one’s political interest.  Those who have done this sabotage and played with so many lives should not be pardoned.” Earlier, on October 21, 2009, after the Goa Express – Mewar Express collision near Mathura that killed 21 people, the minister said: “Somebody is saying that chain pulling was the reason and others say there was a signal problem. It may be a case of criminal offence also. I’ll let the CBI decide.”  Shockingly, when two people died and many injured in a stampede at the New Delhi railway station caused by an abrupt change in the platforms announced by the railways, the minister once again absolving all responsibility with impunity said: “It is not the failure of the administration. People are responsible for such chaos. It is difficult to control such situations.”


On this occasion of the collision of the Uttar Banga Express with the Vananchal Express, the union home ministry shot down the railway minister’s suspicion on the cause of the collision, which hinted at foul play. The home ministry officials have said that the accident pointed to a system failure where both man and equipment failed.  This is the second time that the union home ministry has negated the claim of the railway minister.  It had earlier ruled out the use of explosives, which the railway minister so promptly announced, in the collision of the Jnaneswari Express. 


Undeterred, the railway minister and her Trinamul Congress (TMC) continues to churn out conspiracy theories targeting the CPI(M) and the Left.  The Jnaneswari Express accident, we are told, occurred just two days before the municipal elections in West Bengal. This is a fact.  But then, it was the TMC that gained in these elections.  Where does the needle of suspicion point to?  From the TMC’s own standards of conspiracy theories, it is clear that the `boot is on the other foot’.  This unfortunate accident happened again two days before an annual gathering of people that the TMC organises every year in Kolkata. 


This accident, as with the string of others, leaves many important questions unanswered.  All of these have been widely reported and, hence, need no repetition.  All of these, however, point to a massive systems failure during the last one year.  And, all invariably point to the lack of the required concentration and attention to efficiently and safely run the world’s largest railway network.  The Indian railways today transports over 18 million passengers a day apart from large-scale transportation of goods and freight.  Safety on the railways has, obviously, been neglected.  Nearly 90,000 sanctioned posts remain vacant as the railways under the union minister fails to find time for these appointments.  Shockingly, over 20,000 of these are directly related to safety!  The anti-collision devise (ACD) which automatically prevents train collisions  was curiously developed  by the former managing director of Konkan railways when the current railway minister was the minister in an earlier stint.  The Konkan railways, today, uses the ACDs. Yet today, during the course of this entire year, the railways have not found the time or the inclination to introduce these in its all-India network. 


Clearly, India cannot afford such dangerous state of affairs in our railway network, which is so crucial for the country’s existence.  The union railway minister, pre-occupied, as she is, with other activities, is not discharging her responsibilities as the union minister that have been sanctioned and sanctified by the oath of office. The collective responsibility of our system of cabinet functioning includes the individual accountability of the ministers.  It is the prime minister’s responsibility as the leader of the cabinet minister to ensure this. 


This is importantly required on another count as well.  The prime minister has repeatedly  declared that Maoist violence constitutes the single gravest threat to India’s internal security.  Growing evidence contained in statements made by Maoist leaders reconfirms, if such a reconfirmation was ever necessary, that the TMC had helped the Maoists penetrate in West Bengal and continues to maintain links with them.  This contradiction urgently needs to be resolved by the prime minister. 


In the interest of the country, its internal security, in the interest of the safety of nearly two crores of people who use the railways every day, it is high time that the UPA-II government and the prime minister take a call.  The country cannot afford and the people do not tolerate the continued lack of accountability that jeopardises the safety of both the country and the people. 


(July 21, 2010)