ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Who Cares for the Railways?

Frequent accidents reveal an apathy in the railway management and at the ministerial level towards safety concerns

The accident on 19 July that killed 63 people when the Uttar Banga Express rammed into the stationary Vananchal Express at Sainthia in Birbhum district of West Bengal was one more in the series of rail mishaps in recent months that have taken a terrible human toll on India’s railway network. In just the past year, 14 such “incidents” have killed more than 300 people and injured hundreds. While the biggest tragedy – the derailment of the Gyaneshwari Express and subsequent collision with a goods train in Sardiha on 30 May that resulted in 170 deaths – was most likely an act of sabotage, other accidents were the outcome of factors such as human error and failure of signalling systems and tracks. Clearly, where the basic issue of human safety is concerned the functioning of the railways is beginning to fray at the edges.

The increasing frequency with which major accidents have been happening has been the outcome of the railways’ inability to address aspects of safety that require immediate attention. However, the responsibility for the growing human tragedy on the network must lie at the doorstep of Union Minister for Railways Mamata Banerjee of the Indian Trinamool Congress. As everyone knows, the railway minister has been more busy in West Bengal, preparing for her party’s expected victory in the 2011 assembly elections in the state than in Rail Bhavan in New Delhi and has been ignoring her constitutional responsibilities altogether. This attitude seems to have filtered down the organisation with terrible consequences for human life.

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