OPEN LETTER

Be serious about safety

Suresh-Prabhu

Open Letter to Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on increasing train accidents and related safety measures

Respected Union Railway Minister,

It is really unfortunate that railway accidents in our country have become a norm, killing lots of people and causing excessive loss to the public and the government. I hope it would not be offensive if I say that Indian Railways have always been negligent in bestowing safe travelling for passengers.

As a responsible minister, don't you think our railway system desperately needs an overhauling of its safety features? Experts may point out many reasons for the railway accidents, but as a layman, I would like to bring to your notice the following points:

Despite the fact that human error is involved in all accidents, derailment seems to be one of the main culprits. Regular track maintenance is required to find the cracks as our old and outdated rails are prone to fractures due to age and use.

Second, most of our coaches are falling apart. It is high time Indian Railways went for modern coaches and trains.

Third, is overcrowding. Overcrowded trains are a symbol of our underdeveloped railway system. More than an embarrassing sight, jam-packed trains are a great concern in rail accidents. Regions and routes with more passengers should be provided with more trains.

I know it is a herculean task for any government to revamp the railways. However, it is high time the matter is given due seriousness.

P.A. Jacob

Muscat, Oman

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Implement safety measures

There was a time when people honestly believed that train journey was the best and the safest compared to other modes of transportation. This was because train accidents were unheard of at that time.

Accidents were considered the most unacceptable, which resulted in the railway ministers submitting resignation owning responsibility for the same. Late Lal Bahadur Shastri, who resigned as the railway minister after the Ariyalur train disaster, is an example. Gone are those days when people at the helm of affairs acted with conscience.

However, with the alarming frequency in train accidents nowadays, it would not be proper to demand the railway minister's resignation, as in that case, we would be seeing new ministers every other day. Further, it has now become a fashion to immediately attribute the reason for an accident to terrorist acts and sabotage. It serves as an escape route to all concerned to shirk their responsibility.

With the way train accidents have increased in the recent past, you should have resigned many a time but you have not. Maybe, you still believe that all accidents are on mainly on account of sabotage while the truth is different. Just to refresh your memory, please note that the Kakodkar Committee on Railway Safety found that of 441 derailments it analysed, only about 15 per cent were the result of sabotage, while the majority were caused by factors completely under the control of the railway administration. Some of the main reasons attributed for accidents by the above committee as well as Commission of Railway Safety (CRS) are carriage and wagon defects, variation in the wheel gauges of two

coaches and continuous usage of carriages that have outlived their utility.

Moreover, dereliction of duty by the callous staff, failure of railway equipment and rail fractures also play a vital role in such avoidable fatal accidents as recorded by them.

We are also well aware of the fact that crores of rupees are allocated in every railway budget. Independent of such regular allocations, it is heartening to note that the Railway Ministry is pursuing a major safety initiative, the Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh,with a non-lapsable corpus of Rs 1,19,193 crore. We only desire that such a huge fund allocation be used judiciously keeping the safety of the travellers as its priority and more importantly, with all transparency, honesty and absolute accountability.

You are a dynamic administrator, and we hope you would implement all safety measures on priority, so that the common man can enter the trains without any fear but with hope that he would reach his destination safely.

Tharcius S. Fernando

Chennai

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Find the real cause

Ever since independence the Indian Railways has catered to crores of passengers and always had a good track record as far as safety and security of the passengers was concerned.

In recent times, however, a spate of accidents has all but shattered the confidence of the public. Train travel has become hazardous to say the least. And what is even more tragic is that accidents caused due to derailment of coaches have been taking a huge toll of human lives. While investigations have been promptly carried out, there has not been much progress in pinpointing the causes of the mishaps. One often hears talk of sabotage but in that area, too, the agencies have not been able to come up with anything concrete.

The Railways has been allocating huge sums for safety and security in successive budgets but accidents continue to happen which suggests that either the resources are not utilised properly or that the real areas of concern have not been addressed. Either way it is clear that a lot remains to be done in the sphere of safety and security and considering the fact that you are one of the more dynamic ministers in the Narendra Modi cabinet, it is a bit puzzling.

One really hopes that the best brains in the Railways would put their heads together, identify the main causes for accidents and initiate immediate steps in the right direction. Bullet trains, more routes and even better facilities for passengers can wait, what is paramount is that the millions who use the services reach their destinations safely, without a scratch.

Vijayalakshmi A.

Bengaluru

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Safety first

You have eschewed populist measures such as increasing number of more trains. You have also introduced several schemes to benefit the train travellers with minimal fare hike so far. The latest budget of railways presented as part of the general budget has a few schemes for rail safety—upgrading about 30 railway stations and eliminating unmanned railway crossings. It is hoped that the Rail Safety fund with a corpus of Rs one lakh crore in five years would pay serious attention to rail and passenger safety.

The spate of recent accidents involving passenger trains is a sad commentary on the state of the Indian Railways suffering from lack of modernisation. Some of the passenger coaches have outlived their purpose and need to be replaced with

modern safer coaches.

My recent visits to China and Japan have been a revelation. I travelled extensively on their modern railways and was impressed by the cleanliness,

speed and punctuality of the trains. It made me wonder, whether, if at all, we would ever catch up with these railway systems that serve a large general public.

We need to impart discipline and efficiency to the railway persons by paying them well. No corners to be cut when it comes to safety of the coaches, locomotives, tracks and signalling systems. Track renewal is a must. We need to upgrade these with infusion of modern technology.

“Safety First” should be the slogan of every railway employee. He or she must work towards improving railway safety in every possible manner.

D.B.N. Murthy
Bengaluru

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