(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
July 17, 2011
Deadly Spell of Indian Railways
THE Indian Railways seems
cast a deadly spell on the Indian people. In fact, it is a deathly
curse. During these 21 months since the
government took office, 561 lives have been lost in train accidents.
Additionally, 822 people have been seriously injured.
The last two accidents that
occurred within hours of each other, the
derailment of the Howrah-Kalka Mail and later of the Guwahati-Puri
left at least 50 dead and more than 300 injured. The
tragedy is that these figures will,
surely, rise further deepening human agony.
During the last four months, four major accidents have occurred.
from these two recent ones, on May 22, twenty people were killed when a
Rath Express rammed into a jeep at an unmanned railway crossing in
The reality is that since the UPA-II government was formed, the railway ministry has been languishing without a full time political leadership. The union minister for railways was not only more pre-occupied with her political ambitions in West Bengal, but worse, mis-utilised the railway network and its funds to advance the electoral campaign in the state.
When the UPA-II government assumed office, the vacancies in safety related positions in the Indian Railways was a whopping 89,024. The country was assured that all measures to improve railway safety will be undertaken. Within a year, these vacancies had risen to over 1.04 lakh. This was part of the nearly two lakh vacancies that existed then in the railways as a whole. Worse is the fact that the crucial post of member (traffic) in the railway board has been vacant for more than a year. Still worse is the fact that several posts of the general manager of zonal railways, critical in handling railway operations and overseeing safety parameters, are lying vacant. The union railways minister had neither the time nor the inclination to correct such serious lapses.
The railways had set its
in a corporate safety plan (2003-2013) highlighting the neglect of
safety over the years. None of these targets have been met. This, according to the media, has been
pointed out by a CAG report which exposed the failure of the Indian
meet the targets of modernising signaling equipment, installation of
anti-collusion devices and filling up safety related vacancies. The CAG report highlighted that in all of
railway’s 16 zones, there was a shortage of safety staff.
Thus, neglecting the ministry’s own targets,
the union minister went on an overdrive of ill-planned expansions
the number of trains, many times over, on the same tracks.
This publicity blitz was to leverage the
Indian Railways for the electoral battle in
The net casualty has been the safety in Indian Railways. Innocent passengers by the hundreds are paying the price for such gross neglect and misuse of the railways to serve petty electoral agendas.
Another aspect is also a
worry. Reports suggest that the
Guwahati-Puri Express derailed after a massive explosion near the
The Indian people cannot afford and, hence, should not permit such a cynical treatment of the Indian Railways. The railway network is the lifeline for the people in our country. If its safety is compromised in such a gross fashion, then this lifeline becomes seriously ruptured. This UPA-II government must pull up its socks and entrust the Indian Railways to somebody who has the commitment and competence to deliver and not be put in charge of people who use the Indian Railways to serve their other political agendas.
Finally, needless to say that these accidents must be thoroughly probed and the guilty identified in the case of a human error and a deterrent punishment must follow. Mere departmental enquiries will not do. This must be done in the interest of the country and its people.
(July 13, 2011)