Monday, September 20, 2010

Trains collide while the government sleeps

Another rail accident, this time a head on collision between a goods train and a passenger train near Shivpuri, about twenty passengers killed, scores others injured! The railways ministry has announced compensation of rupees five lac to the next of kin of each passenger who died in the accident and rupees one lac for each injured. The injured have been removed to nearby hospitals for treatment and a special train has been provided for the other passengers to complete their journeys. The Commissioner of Railway Safety has ordered an inquiry into the circumstances and causes of the accident. The Railways have mastered the routine by now, after all they have had to repeat it time and again with boring regularity.

In Japan, Western Europe and China trains run at speeds up to 350 kmh but accidents are rare there, in fact, there has been only one accident involving a Bullet train in Japan in 45 years. In comparison, our fastest trains, the various Shatabdi Express, do not go beyond 150 kmh and yet we have all sorts of train accidents causing hundreds of deaths every year. But why does it have to be like this, are these accidents inevitable? No, they are not! Even with the present state of the railway tracks, engines and other rolling stock, and signalling and telecommunication equipment, railways can be made a lot safer by installing an anti-collision device on each train. These devices are very much available in India, manufactured as they are by the Konkan Rail Corporation. They have also passed the stringent safety tests when they were used in actual field conditions by the North-Eastern Frontier Railway. A few improvements suggested by the users have now been incorporated in the devices. So, the tried and tested technology to prevent train collisions is available indigenously, all the government has to do is to allocate three to four thousand crore rupees to the Railways to buy a sufficient number of anti-collision devices for equipping all trains, passenger or freight, with them. The process, if now initiated and given the right push, will take two to three years to complete.

Unfortunately, however, the Indian government is not finding the funds for the purpose. Mind you it is the same government which does not think twice before setting apart rupees 70,000 crore for readying Delhi for the Commonwealth Games and for holding them. If there are absolutely credible charges of large scale corruption against almost everyone entrusted with this work, so what? For this government, the games are an opportunity to showcase India’s achievements to the world, they are the nation’s coming out party, et al, Ultimately, it is a matter of priorities and it is obvious that on the UPA 2.0 government’s scale of priorities railway trains and the tens of millions of Indians who use them every day figure quite low. If the trains are unsafe, why do these people not travel by air, haven’t we, for this end, opened India’s sky and promoted private airlines at the cost of Air India – the Maria Antoinettes of Delhi seem to be saying. Or perhaps the government is waiting for the day when these train passengers will turn stone-pelters and earn some real respect for themselves in its eyes.

1 comment:

  1. i was joking with a friend the other day about how India Tv dramatizes every news and exaggerates it.. like the other day they said 'Pralay' the Doomsday is here..
    somehow it is no more funny
    the disasters and the disastrous politicians seem to be leading India the '2012' way..