Within a span of 20 days, the railways has witnessed two accidents and both were the result of derailment of the train. The recurring accidents should frighten and concern every Indian who has to travel by train. Indian railways is the fourth longest network across the world transporting approximately 13 million people everyday. Rail accidents remains one of the leading cause of deaths and fatalities caused by accidents in India. NCRB reported that around 25000 people had lost their lives in rail accidents in the year 2014 alone.
While the central government is boasting about the introduction of high-speed trains, it has forgotten that the primary move of the government should be the safety of the citizens travelling through the public transport system. Any modernisation is of no use unless people feel safe while travelling through the rail lines. No modernisation of the railways can compensate for the grief and agony through which a bereaved family has to go through because of the callousness of the government machinery. The government should try to focus on the fundamental issues that could help bolster the security grid of the railway system. It has started the ‘zero accident mission’ to reduce the incidents of rail accidents but the major focus of the government has been on the cosmetic surgery of the railways.
The twin causes of the fatalities caused because of the derailment are the fractured rail tracks and the ICF-designed fragile bogies that lack the anti-telescopic feature. The government should replace the ICF-designed bogies with the LHB ones at maximum speed. LHB designed coaches are much safer than the ICF ones and can reduce the fatality rate by a tremendous extent especially in cases of derailment. Maximum number accidents in railways are caused because of human error. It means that fixing accountability, increasing manpower and provision of quality-training aided with ICT could play an indispensable role in curbing the accidents because of human error. TRINETRA is one such tech-driven initiative introduced in the railways which allows the driver to see the tracks ahead with full visibility in foggy conditions. Similar tech-driven initiatives could play an important part in preventing the collision of trains.
Recently,the government announced the merging of the Union Budget with the rail budget indicating that railways will not have to bear the cash-crunch as the financing of rail projects would come under the domain of the finance ministry. Railways minister Suresh Prabhu should use this merger to the maximum extent and he must earmark substantial funding to bolster the security apparatus of the railways. There should be a long-term, sustainable and far-sighted policy on railways that looks into the concern and safety of millions commuting everyday. If the government continues to turn a blind eye to the fundamental concern of people and rather persists on the types of cosmetic change it has mooted, millions of us would continue to be vulnerable to possible accidents in future.