These days TV coverage and social media serve to cover up the misery. Turning sadness into entertainment weakens the debate whether accidents like Balasore happen because of the fault of one or two people? Is it someone’s personal offense? Was this crime done intentionally? These questions have become more serious as the Railway Board has recommended a CBI inquiry. Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge has written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi opposing the CBI probe. According to him, the job of CBI is to investigate crimes and not to investigate train accidents. The CBI also does not have the necessary technical knowledge for this. But the attitude of the government regarding the accident became clear from the statement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He had announced at the time of his visit to the accident site that the guilty would be severely punished. This means that instead of considering it as a technical or system failure, the government is considering it as human error.
accident or conspiracy
In the context of government attitude, it is necessary to discuss another major accident. It happened in Kanpur in 2016 and 150 people were killed in it. Its investigation was also handed over to the NIA as the Prime Minister suspected some conspiracy behind it. But in 2018, the NIA closed its file and refused to file a charge sheet. It seems like a small thing, but look at it from the point of view of those people whose relatives have lost their lives, then it would seem that they did not get justice. Justice is not enough just by giving compensation. Here too, the struggle that the family members have to go through to get the amount after the announcement of compensation, how much it increases their suffering, is a different issue.
Definitely, this government mentality is working behind blaming the person or persons that there is no fault in the security system of the railways. If we look at it from the point of view of statistics and reports, then it becomes clear that all is not well in the security system. The CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General), the apex body that monitors expenditure in the country, had submitted a report on the derailment incidents to the Parliament six months back. In this, he has investigated the accidents that happened during the period of four years from April 2017 to March 2021.
- It has been told in the report that the number of these accidents was 1129, including all the 16 zones of the railway. This includes both goods trains and passenger trains.
- In these 1129 accidents, maximum i.e. 422 trains were derailed due to technical fault.
- Of these, 171 accidents were such that lack of maintenance of tracks became the reason for the accident.
- In about 400 cases, bad coaches and bad wheels have become the reason for the accident.
- In 154 cases, the train derailed due to over speeding.
- 275 cases have happened due to the negligence of the operating department i.e. the department engaged in driving the vehicle. This means that the train derailed because of the loco pilot and other staff. The fault of the employees is the real reason behind both these types of accidents.
- The CAG report also pointed out that no action was taken on the reports submitted after investigation in about half of these incidents.
One of the main reasons for the derailment has been the poor condition of the tracks. This was recognized by Nitish Kumar, who was the railway minister during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, and created a special security fund for it. Under this, the work of installing new tracks in place of old and dilapidated tracks was done on a large scale. It was revived by the Modi government with the new name of National Rail Security Fund. But in 2018, the expenditure of Rs 9607 crore on this was reduced by Rs 2000 crore after two years.
The installation of anti-collision devices was started in 2011 itself to prevent incidents of train collisions. It was developed by the engineers of Konkan Railway. It was then named Raksha Kavach. An ambitious plan was made to install it, which is running under the name Kavach during the tenure of the Modi government. There is a plan to install it on every rail network. But the work is being done at such a slow pace that it will take years. A lot of money is spent on this. Even at the time of Balasore train accident, the same question was raised whether there is armor on this route? Railway Minister has already told that there is no armor here.
think of public
The social presence of Indian Railways is rarely discussed in the debate of rail accidents. The dead and injured are reduced to mere numbers. How much the railway department has enriched the lives of common Indians, it can be gauged from literature and films. But in the current policies of the Railways, speed and glare have been made important. The emphasis has to be on making it safe and accessible to the common man.
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author’s own.