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Courtesy petty politics, safety remains a non-issue for Indian railways!
Yet another rail accident that killed at least four people and injured many, when Dibrugarh Rajdhani Express derailed near Chapra station in Bihar in the wee hours of 25th June 2014. A goods train too derailed near Motihari. It appears that accidents have become a regular routine affair in Indian railways. In this particular case, although LWE sabotage is suspected, but still one has to accept that in Indian Railways, safety is the most ignored aspect.

Some argue that Indian Railways is very vast in comparison to other countries and hence compared number of accidents per KM of Railway Line or per passenger that travels in train, would be very minimal! This is a wrong statistic in fact. Indian Railway’s accident rate per KM or per passenger is not comparable with other countries as Indian Railways can’t match with the speed of trains with other countries.

In our country the average speed of Express/Superfast/Rajdhani Express are just below 70 kmph, whereas in other countries the average speed is 150 kmph, just the double. If Indian Railways tries to achieve 150 kmph average speed with the existing safety measures, just imagine what would be the accident rate!

Point is perhaps Indian Railways doesn’t have safety as a mandatory aspect. Indian Railways Board is the only board in the World which doesn’t have a Member-safety. It has Member-mechanical, Member-Traffic, Member-Engineering, Member-Electrical and even a Member-Staff apart from Chief of Railway Board and Chairman of Railway Board, Finance Commissioner, DG (RHS) and DH (RPF)! Safety is under CRS (Commissioner of Railway Safety).

You would be surprised that this CRS (Commissioner of Railway Safety) is in fact working under administrative control of Ministry of Civil Aviation! Isn’t it utter shameful for Railways! Civil Aviation Ministry has lent a safety commission to railways for examining safety aspects absolutely without any authority and mandate! It functions like an advisory institution which is mostly used for investigation of various accidents!

Isn’t the above paragraph self explanatory about how the Railways has no safety culture at all! A recent CAG report also revealed that Railways spends just Rs 2.86 per passenger for their safety! Can it be comparable with any other country?

Apart from railway board’s indifference to passenger safety, the added curse is politics by Railways Ministers! During Nitish Kumar’s tenure an anti-crash mechanism is invented by the then brilliant engineers of railways. It was about to be fixed in every train so that head on collisions can be prevented. By that time, NDA was government defeated and Lalu Yadav had taken over as Railways Minister.

His first instruction was to drop the implementation of this safety device, as it was invented during his rival’s tenure. He asked for a new device. During the end of Lalu’s tenure another better although bit costly and GPS based anti-collision device was made. Before it was implemented, Lalu was out and Mamata Banerjee took over in UPA-II regime. She immediately dropped the implementation of such devices as Lalu could claim credit for it.

For them politics is prime than passenger’s safety! One would really feel proud and at the same time angry also that Konkan Railways Corporation’s 'Anti-Collision Device system (ACD) and Track Identification System' has been patented in many countries including USA, yet it’s not been used in India!

Other countries including America are using these systems for their safety where as in India it’s not being implemented because of Railway Ministers' political ego, which is more important than passengers' safety! Systems are there available in India and railways can be equipped. But fund is in Minister’s hand and none in the board has any mandate to speak on safety issues!

It’s time to revamp the Railways Board as it is also a white elephant like Planning Commission and such other organizations. Railways Board must be made autonomous having mandatorily a member-safety, exclusively to look after the safety aspects. He must be provided whatever fund is required, for ensuring safety and there should be no compromise on it. If there is fund shortage, then new projects or extensions may wait, but not the safety provisions. That means if safety requires a particular amount, it has to be given even at the cost of new projects or expansion of existing projects!

This requires political guts and intent to provide Indian commuters a true safety! Will Modi government look in to this matter while putting it on the list of prime importance? It should as Modi in his campaign speeches had always talked about making Indian Railways an invaluable asset. An unsafe organization can’t be an asset. Thus, will railways minister throw some light on how he is going to ensure the safety aspect in his upcoming railways budget?

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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