The Patna Express rail tragic accident is undoubtedly one of the worst train accidents in recent times. The increasing number of train accidents is alarming and is also a symptom of the rot within. These are needless deaths, which happen only in India which is really disgusting. In order to prevent the recurrence of such mishaps, the modernisation of safety equipment, the maintenance of track and signals, the re-training and fitness of the staff, especially drivers, their assistants, guards, and those at the stations need to be improved. On one hand, safety measures are out of place and, on the other, safety awareness is abysmally low among people. How many of us know what to do during emergency? Our Railway Minister needs efficient, adequate and trained staff too, for turning his vision of modernizing railways into reality. Train derailment incident has claimed several lives and has damaged private and public property. It has created fear in the minds of commuters to refrain from travelling in trains for reaching their destinations.
It is a fact that rail traffic has grown disproportionately to railway infrastructure. There are serious flaws in the scheduling of trains on some routes. So much so that the railway system would not be able to handle the traffic on certain routes if all trains were to run as per schedule. Every year we introduce new trains without improving the infrastructure. While a probe has been ordered, and compensations announced, the history of Indian Railways is not very bright when it comes to safety.
It has become a routine for the Railway Ministers and officials to rush to the scene of accident, express their sorrow and opinion for its cause, announce ex-gratia payments to the victims’ families and initiate an inquiry, and there ends the matter. It is clear that the phenomenal advancement in modern technology has not led to the upgradation of safety to the desired extent.
In addition to use of new technology for improving rail infrastructure the government must provide incentives, promotion, training, healthcare, accommodation and proper rest to railway employees, impart yoga and meditation for their well-being. But railways have failed to adhere to safety norms. Has any action being taken on various inquiries instituted by railways in the past after occurrence of accidents? No. Successive governments have ignored warnings issued by expert committees and engineers of the Indian Railways on track safety and maintenance. Every time a major train accident occurs, we get down to postmortem on the reasons that caused the mishap. While chanting the development mantra, the Railways should not compromise on safety measures. The railways should allocate sufficient funds for passenger safety and learn from other countries, if necessary. Let us stop the blame game and focus on safety measures so that these accidents can be averted in future. The Indian Railways needs to launch ‘Zero Accident Mission’ within a definite time frame.
Vinod Chandrashekhar Dixit
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)