Saturday, November 1, 2008

NEW DELHI: The Comptroller and Auditor-General of India has picked holes in theDisaster Management System of the Railways, saying the organisation was notprepared to deal with all kinds of disasters.In its performance audit report for the period ended March 2007, the CAG saidthe disaster management plan lacked cohesiveness and was far from comprehensivetaking into account the post-incidence response of the Railways. The Railways failed in rapidly accessing the sites with rescue and reliefequipment and coordinating with private agencies within the “goldenhour”— within the first hour of the accident. AccidentRelief Trains and Accident Relief Medical Vans (ARMVs) reached the site muchbehind the stipulated time in 124 out of the 138 incidents. During the July 11, 2006 bomb blasts aboard seven trains in Mumbai, evenbefore the ARMVs arrived, the victims had been shifted to nearby hospitals byvolunteers. The reason attributed was the absence of a diesel locomotive in thevicinity of 75 km of the Mumbai division capable of running at 100 kmph.Instead, a locomotive with a speed capacity of 45 kmph hauled an ARMV. The delayed arrival of relief trains and equipment delayed restoration workafter 78 out of 109 incidents.Only 25 per cent of the frontline staff were trained to respond in case of adisaster. Training programmes were not held in several divisions and where theexercise was conducted, attendance was poor. Work on track renewal and rehabilitation of bridges and overaged locomotivestaken up under the Special Railway Safety Fund, set up with a corpus of Rs.17,000 crore, was way behind schedule. Twenty-four of the 136 bridges declared distressed were not even listed for repair or rehabilitation.Out of the 110 bridges takenup for repair during 2005-06 and 2006-07 work on 39 were not completed by November 2007. As manyas 321 out of 4,500 diesel locomotieves, 61 out of 3,197 electric locomotivesand 1,229 out of 42,160 coaches had outlived their utility by over 18 years,9 years and 49 years respectively and had not been replaced. The CAG detectedsignal gear falures,which during 2006-07 was as high as 2,08,966.It also pointed out that except for three divisions,there were 8,493 vacancies ofdrivers or motorman cadre in 62 out of 67 divisions of the Indian Railway forcing drivers to perform overtime.

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