Saturday, July 31, 2010

Rlys become a `soft target' for Naxals
Mahendra Kumar Singh, TNN, Jul 30, 2010, 10.40pm IST

NEW DELHI: The railways is clearly under siege from Naxals. The drastic increase in train accidents due to sabotage by Maoists has led to as many as 150 civilian casualties till June. While another 165 people have been injured. It has also cost the PSU around Rs 25 crore due to loss of property.

Record reveal that there have been eight accidents in the first six months of this year alone due to sabotage as compared to six in 2009 and 2008 and four in 2007.

Though six accidents due to sabotage were reported last year, the loss was much less as compared to this year. In 2009, only 2 persons were killed, 24 injured and around Rs 10.4 crore was lost due to damage to rail property. Similarly in 2008, there was no casualty, and the loss was only pegged at Rs 2.4 crore.

This year, the sabotage-induced accidents -- that occurred mostly in Maoist strongholds in East-Central, South-Eastern and East Cost Zonal Railway -- forced the railways to pay an ex-gratia compensation to the tune of around Rs 32 crore to the victims.

While initial findings suggest the "sabotage" theory -- as railways suspect drugging of both the drivers of the Uttar Banga Express -- the official version ignores this angle in the July 19 accident when the Uttar Banga Express rammed into the Vananchal Express, killing 62 people.

"Railways has become a soft target for Naxals due to its vast network and expanse," minister of state for railways E Ahamed informed the Rajya Sabha.

"The security scenario in the country has changed drastically in the recent past. There has been a rise in Maoist attacks on critical infrastructure of railways," the minister said in a written reply.

Parliament was informed that the derailment of the Mumbai-bound Gyaneshwari Expre
Rail loco pilots to sport rings that help them stay alert
New Delhi, July 28 (PTI) Indian Railway loco pilots could soon be seen sporting a ring in their hand which would help them stay alert and generate warnings in the event of them falling asleep.
The ring would be a"biometric device" which the Railways are introducing shortly, alarmed over the spurt in accidents.
"Realising the fact that 80 per cent of the accidents are due to human failure, Railways have decided to incorporate this technology which will constantly monitor the condition of the loco pilots," a senior Railway Ministry official said.
The decision comes in the backdrop of the July 19 accident in Sainthia where the drivers' actions were found to be very "unusual".
The driver of one of the trains was alerted by the station master over walkie talkie and asked him to stop the train as the signal was red and there was already a train on the platform. But he did not respond and seconds later the deadly collision took place, which claimed about 66 lives.
"The device -- the drivers vigilance telemetric control and monitoring systems -- will be introduced from August on a trial basis, "the official said, adding it could also be used as a band.
Trials, using 20 such devices, will begin with loco pilots handling mail and express trains in the South Central Railway and among loco pilots operating freight trains in Kottavalasa-Kirandul line under the East Coast Railway.
The device could be introduced in other zones if the trials prove successful, the official said.
Explaining the unique features of the device, he said as it is attached to the body, it will identify situations where the loco pilot is likely to fall asleep or become incapacitated much before the actual occurrence of the event.
"It is programmed to generate audio-visual warning for a pre-determined and if it goes unacknowledged by the drivers, the emergency brakes would be applied automatically," he said.
The decision comes close on the heels of Railways issuing advisories to loco pilots to be on alert and ensure proper functioning of existing safety-related devices in locomotives like the'vigilance control device'(VCD).
Besides, it has decided to install the VCD in all the remaining 3200 electric locomotives after the Sainthia train accident.
The VCD also alerts the drivers before it applies automatic brakes.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Indian Railways: Travel at your own risk
Marya Shakil , CNN-IBN
July 26, 2010
New Delhi: Not just the anti-collision devices, there seems to be a problem with the complete safety system of the Indian railways. CNN-IBN has details of the safety officers meeting that reveals shocking details of the deteriorating infrastructure including the welding on tracks that can cause derailments.
Every time there is an accident, questions are being raised on the role of the driver. But Railway ministry figures reveal that human error has accounted for half of the train accidents in last 10 years and the railways have done precious little to reduce this over dependence on human judgement.
Chief Safety Officers of Zonal Railway, in a meeting with top railway officials in January 2009, raised serious concerns over railway safety. The tracks that we travel on have serious welding failures that could lead to derailments. Even coaches across Railway zones need lots of repair. Replacement of old signal systems with new ones that reduce human error is not happening.

Safety officers told the meeting that in one instance the signal had gone blank as there was no power back up when a Rajadhani express crossed. Officers also raised a red flag on the practice of hiding failures. The meeting was held after eight years.
A considerable delay of more than six hours is seen even in reporting accidents. Crucial time, that can save lives, are wasted by railwaymen, a fact noted by the South Eastern and Eastern Railways where two of the biggest tragedies of recent times happened -- the Gyaneshwari derailment and the collision at Sainthia.
AILRSA Southern, South Western, South Central and Vishakapatanam Division Joint Regional Convention at Thadikonda Ramulau Mandapam, VIJAYA WADA from 10.00 hrs on 3rd August 2010.
Com P Madhu Ex MP will inaugurate the convention. Central Trade union leaders and AILRSA central leaders will participate.
Notice for CWC Meeting following with national Convention

1. As we have decided in last CWC Meeting the National Convention of Loco Running Staff will be held at Kalyan in Mumbai Division of Central Railway on 31st Aug’ 2010 from 9:00 hrs. The CWC members, Zonal Committee members, Branch Secretary and President along with other members of Loco Running Staff must attend, so, that we can decide our future course of action, if our demands remain unsolved. All the attending members are requested to reach at Kalyan latest by night of 30th Aug’ 2010, so that meeting will start in time.

2. The CWC meeting will be held one day before i.e. on 30th Aug’ 2010 from 15:00 hrs to discuss the matter related to National convention at Kalyan only. All the CWC members must reach at Kalyan accordingly.

3. The Zonal Secretary are requested to send this notice to all concerned in their respective Zones and ensure the success of this convention.

M. N. Prasad
Secretary General

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Files pile up as Mamata plays truant

TNN, Jul 22, 2010, 02.11am IST

NEW DELHI: Railway minister Mamata Banerjee's claims of not sitting on any files might be greeted with more than a pinch of salt. Not only do files pile up, but several decisions like acquisition of machines and equipment have been awaiting her approval.

Her frequent absences from Delhi have made it hard for officials to get her to clear pending decisions and even when the Trinamool leader does find the time, she is reluctant to put pen to paper. It is not easy to fathom why this is the case as she is otherwise not known to be ultra cautious.

The problem seems to be that tenders are being delayed and some of these relate to manufacturing of moving stock and engines. The components that go into operational and safety equipment are not being delivered on time. On occasion, in a limited manner, senior officers have used their discretionary powers to sanction spending.

But this cannot resolve matters where purchases are of an order of Rs 100 crore or more and definitely need the minister's nod. With tenders not being put out on time, production schedules are likely to be affected while the minister gears up to what she clearly considers a do or die battle with her old enemy, the Left, in West Bengal.

It is also pointed out that Mamata's political priorities have been all to well understood by officialdom. With her accent on populist schemes like building stadiums, medical colleges and housing, the attention and rigour on inspections and maintainence has slipped. The pressure on overseeing operations had in any case increased with more and more trains being announced in every budget.

Officials aver that railway safety systems are quite thorough but need to be effectively monitored. If the slack seeps in, the staff down the line begin to take it easy as well. Already pressed for time, they begin to cut corners. Bi-monthly track inspections become monthly affairs, the checks and due diligence on stations and signals also take a beating.

From time to time, the Railway Board does issue circulars stressing that railway zones are bound to report all potentially hazardous occurences to headquarters and there should be no short cuts. Events like "train passing signal at danger" must be mentioned and correctives applied. This is good on paper, but is it being followed on the track?

Mamata Banerjee: The wail mantri

ARATI R JERATH, TNN, Jul 24, 2010, 12.08pm IST

FRIEND OR FOE? With Mamata's star on the rise in Bengal, many believe her belligerence will only grow.

Every time they feel a Mamata migraine coming on, Congress leaders look back at UPA I with nostalgia. A hardboiled Communist leader like Prakash Karat was easier to handle than the mercurial chief of the Trinamool Congress. The remark , made with wry humour in a private conversation , came from one of the Congress party’s chief political managers.

How do you solve a problem like Mamata Banerjee? As her star rises in West Bengal, the enfant terrible of UPA II couldn’t care less about Delhi and its stuffy expectations. Mamata is on a roll and she’s not about to be tamed, not by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, not even by Sonia Gandhi. Sitting in a room full of files in Delhi’s Rail Bhavan is no match for the heady excitement of shrieking populist slogans to a mammoth crowd, like the one that filled Kolkata’s Esplanade on July 21 for the Trinamool’s annual martyr’s day rally.

In the 14 months since UPA II assumed office, relations between the Congress and Mamata have grown increasingly fractious. Once indulged as the giant killer of the 2009 Lok Sabha polls for her stunning victories in Left-dominated Bengal, Mamata is now regarded with suspicion and irritation. She’s the recalcitrant ally, unpredictable, untrustworthy and a law unto herself. Is she with the Congress or against the Congress? The party can’t seem to decide as it grapples with the aggressive and demanding nature of Mamata’s politics. Sheer pragmatism demands that they stay together because they are poised to make history when Bengal votes next year. Yet the Congress cannot shake off apprehensions that Mamata may be a cross too heavy to bear.

There are four main pressure points in the Congress-Mamata relationship. One is the growing gulf between the Manmohan Singh government’s expectations from its railways minister and Mamata’s perception of her role in the Union cabinet. The gap widened some more after the recent train accident at Sainthia, which fetched Mamata (and the government) damaging headlines about an “absentee’’ minister, 16 rail disasters in 14 months and 269 deaths.

The second is the clashes that occur with annoying regularity on policy issues. If the government managed to sneak in decisions to decontrol petrol prices and divest 10 percent of its stakes in two public sector undertakings, Hindustan Copper and Coal India, it was only because Mamata decided she could afford to make a magnanimous gesture to the Congress after she captured yet another CPI(M) citadel in the Kolkata municipal polls in June this year.

This third is her flirtation with suspected Naxalite sympathisers. She has clashed with home minister P Chidambaram on this dalliance several times and another one is looming on the horizon after her vow at the martyr’s day rally to get the Union government to call off its anti-Naxal operations in Lalgarh.

The fourth, and perhaps the most worrying for the Congress, is the prospect of being devoured by Mamata in Bengal as she plots with single-minded determination to wipe out the CPI(M). The exodus from the Congress to the Trinamool is turning into a flood as assembly polls draw nearer with anxious Congress MLAs ready to negotiate any terms with Mamata to secure their political future in the next dispensation . Virtually every local leader of note is now with her. The Congress is left with just two, trade union leader Pradip Bhattacharya and state unit president Manas Bhunia. Perhaps the biggest blow was the exit of Mohua Moitra, handpicked by Rahul Gandhi to lead his aam aadmi ka sipahi team in the state.

The Congress is bracing itself for relations to reach a flashpoint when negotiations on seat sharing begin closer to the assembly elections. Mamata has made no bones about her ambition to lead a Trinamool only government in Bengal, not a coalition arrangement with the Congress, and has already stated that she will not concede more than 40-45 of Bengal’s 294 assembly seats for the Congress to contest.

Party leaders are haunted by fears that the Congress in Bengal will go the way of Uttar Pradesh where the decline began after former prime minister Narasimha Rao sealed an asymmetrical pre-poll arrangement with the BSP for the 1996 assembly elections. The BSP contested 300 seats; the Congress fought just 100 and has remained on the margins of UP politics since. Mamata may prove to be a meaner negotiator than the BSP’s Kanshi Ram and the Congress fully expects her to leverage her position in the Union cabinet to get the best bargain possible in Bengal. If the party gives in to Mamata, it will be a blow to Rahul Gandhi’s plans for a nation-wide resurgence of the Congress. If it doesn’t , the alliance could move perilously close to breaking point and give the CPI(M) an advantage.

Mamata’s mercurial moods make it impossible to predict what’s in store for the Manmohan Singh government and the Congress in the coming months. She blows hot and cold, leaving Congress managers with an annoying feeling of being bested by a mere woman. Mamata seems to revel in being stereotyped and her handlers in the Congress respond with typical patriarchal condescension.

Congress circles are full of anecdotes about Mamata’s erratic behaviour. Like the time she rang up the cabinet secretary at midnight to demand the last-minute inclusion of 10 new projects for West Bengal in the railways budget papers to be approved by the Union cabinet in the morning. She was so insistent that the cabinet secretary gave in. But there was hell to pay at the cabinet meeting with finance minister Pranab Mukherjee ticking her off as if she were a naughty schoolgirl. She burst into tears and one of the ministers kindly offered her a handkerchief to wipe her face. But Mukherjee was unmoved. He told her sternly that he would allow her to announce the projects when she presented the railways budget in Parliament but he could not sanction money for any of them at gunpoint. All 10 projects remain Mamata’s pipedream.

Unfortunately, Mamata lends herself to the kind of criticism coming her way as a non-performing railways minister. She barely spends a week every month in Delhi and although her aides shuttle between the capital and Kolkata with files, they only carry papers that need immediate attention. So while routine work has not suffered, there’s very little strategic planning on burning issues like safety, upgradation of tracks and equipment, staff recruitment to fill the 95,000-odd vacancies, expansion and raising resources through fare hikes. Senior officials complain that they hardly get to meet her for discussions because even if she is in office, she is preoccupied with political work.

Her list of demands for the Union government is endless. She wants the CPI(M) government in Kolkata dismissed. She wants the assembly polls advanced to November this year. She doesn’t want Union ministers to entertain West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya . She has refused to allow the government to pass the Land Acquisition Amendment Bill, thus holding up a slew of projects, including the prime minister’s flagship Dedicated Freight Corridor. She wants the women’s reservation bill amended to include a quota for women from backward castes and minority communities . And her latest salvo is a demand to call off the anti-Naxal operations in West Bengal.

For a reform-minded prime minister like Manmohan Singh, Mamata’s nonchalant handling of her railways portfolio must be frustrating. It’s been left to Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia to let off steam on the PM’s behalf. He has written three letters to Mamata already expressing concern on various issues connected to her ministry. In one, he reminded her to pay more attention to safety upgradation measures and advised her to raise passenger fares to meet rising costs. In another, he rapped her for the delay in the Dedicated Freight Corridor project, which has pushed up costs from Rs 43,000 crore to Rs 80,000 crore. Mamata has not replied to any of Ahluwalia’s missives.

But there may, after all, be a method to her seeming madness. Perhaps it needs a streetfighter like Mamata, with almost fanatical devotion to her cause to the exclusion of everything else, to batter the CPI(M)’s Bengal fortress. The Congress failed for 30 years. Mamata, on the other hand, seems poised to succeed. Unfortunately, the Manmohan Singh government may have to pay the price in terms of governance to help release years of pent up anger and frustration in Bengal.


Mamata Banerjee’s over-the-top populist politics and her obsession with West Bengal often bring her into conflict with the demands of being a member of the Manmohan Singh government and a partner of the UPA. Some instances:

While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described Naxalism as the biggest threat to internal security, Mamata Banerjee told a mammoth rally in Kolkata last week that she will put pressure on the Union government to call off anti-Naxal operations in Lalgarh

The government is keen to pass the land acquisition amendment bill to facilitate the purchase of land for infrastructure, industrial and other projects. But Mamata has refused to even consider supporting the bill till the Bengal polls are over next year and almost walked out of a cabinet meeting to underline the point.

The PM, through Planning Commission chief Montek Singh Ahluwalia, advised Mamata to hike passenger fares in this year’s railways budget and close down non-profitable lines. Fares have not been raised for 10 years. Mamata turned a deaf ear on the plea that she has a social responsibility to the people of India.

After supporting the women’s reservation bill in the Union cabinet, Mamata suddenly changed her mind when the proposed legislation was introduced in the Rajya Sabha. She embarrassed the government by instructing her MPs to absent themselves from Parliament, prompting Sonia Gandhi to wonder aloud in a television interview about Mamata’s volte face. She further embarrassed the government by inviting the main opponents of the bill, the Yadav trio, for lunch to make common cause with them.

Mamata has consistently ignored reminders to get the flagship Dedicated Freight Corridor project rolling, resulting in a huge cost overrun. The estimated completed cost of the project is now Rs 80,000 crore, almost double the original estimate of Rs 43,000 crore.

Mamata has declined to make Indian Railways pay service tax for two financial years, 2009-10 and 2010-11 . Her excuse is lack of funds. The exasperated finance minister, Pranab Mukherjee, tried hard to persuade her and even offered to take payment in installments. But Mamata stuck to her stand. Ultimately, Mukherjee was forced to waive the tax for last financial year but is still hopeful of getting her to pay up this year.

Despite a phone call from Sonia Gandhi’s political advisor Ahmed Patel requesting Mamata on his boss’ behalf to attend the UPA premonsoon session coordination meeting, she flew to Bengal following the train disaster at Sainthia. That was understandable. What upset the Congress was her failure to send a representative, considering another missing ally, Sharad Pawar, was represented at the meeting by Praful Patel.

Railways response to disaster slow: Chidambaram
Updated on Wednesday, July 21, 2010, 16:04 IST
New Delhi: Home Minister P Chidambaram Wednesday regretted the enormous delay in rescue and relief teams reaching the train accident site at Sainthia in West Bengal and said use of helicopters or small planes on such occasions should be looked into.

He said the capacity of disaster management capacity is tested only when a disasters strikes and one has to increase their capacity.

"I was informed that the first relief team could leave only about 2 hours and 30 minutes after the accident happened. The second team could only leave seven hours after the accident and they had to drive for about 220 kms which means there is a clear gap in the mobility of the disaster team.
"So we need to increase our capacity to be able to move disaster relief teams quickly which means perhaps helicopters, small planes. All this would cost money but I think capacity has to be built," he said.

Speaking at a function organised by the National Disaster Management Authority, Chidambaram said, "I compliment the NDMA and NDRF for vastly improving our capacity in case of natural disasters like flood or cycle or fire. But there are some other cases I think in which our response should be better, for example if there is a train disaster."

He said in the last one-and-a-half years, the response to disaster has been better especially to natural ones.

"More lives are being saved, more relief and aid is being rushed to affected people, more quickly and the situation brought to control within a few days," he said.

Thursday, Jul 22, 2010
Railways did not heed CAG recommendations
K. Balchand
Report tabled on July 24, 2009; Railways yet to submit ATR
Norms laid out in Corporate Safety Plan not fully implemented
Shortage of staff in signalling and telecommunication department
NEW DELHI:Just about a year ago, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) submitted a report pointing out the drawbacks of implementation of the signalling and telecommunication system under the Corporate Safety Plan (CSP), but the Railways don't seem to have initiated any corrective measures, which could possibly have averted Monday's collision at Sainthia.
CAG officials seemed to be disheartened that their efforts to improve the system and save the lives of people turned out to be futile. Incidentally, the CAG submitted its second report on the same aspect to Parliament and it is likely to be tabled during the coming monsoon session.
As per procedure, the Railway Ministry was supposed to have submitted an Action Taken Report (ATR), and after obtaining the CAG's observations, the Public Accounts Committee was supposed to take a decision. Even though the report had been tabled on July 24, 2009, the Railways did not submit its ATR.
Sources in the CAG said that it had the option of complaining against this lapse to Parliament, but said it would do so only if the department concerned failed to respond for two to three years.
Officials refused to comment on the Sainthia collision, saying they could not say what really happened in what they regard as a strange accident. But they underscored the fact that if their recommendations had been heeded, it would have perhaps been averted.
They pointed out that the CSP, which was to be executed in 10 years from 2003-13, had laid out certain safety norms and specified certain areas for improvement.
The Railways failed to implement all the recommendations.
“As long as this happens and these are not implemented, then these problems will confront you. Accidents will happen.”
The CAG pointed out shortage of staff in the signalling and telecommunication department. Modernisation had not been fully done.
Though funds had been fully utilised the improvement was only to the extent of 33 per cent. “May be that was because of cost escalation.”
The vacancies were supposed to have been filled on a priority basis and the CAG saw no reason for delaying a decision on the induction of the anti-collision device for more than a decade now.

Rly focus on training of A-grade drivers
Ajanta Chakraborty, TNN, Jul 22, 2010, 01.43am IST

KOLKATA: Railway authorities, waking up after the Sainthia accident are working on ways to amend training of A-grade drivers, even though they are already top-notch in terms of hierarchy and efficiency.

After Monday's tragedy, Railway Board chairman Vivek Sahai had said that

there have been five cases of sabotage since January. "The accidents are now occurring in mail and express trains. In many of these cases, there had been evidence of wilful interference," Sahai had said after the accident.

Sahai's contemplation has made the railways mull the training amendment for A-special and A-category drivers who operate on mail, super fast and express trains. Only 15% to 20% of all drivers in Indian Railways belong to these categories.

Eastern Railway officials said all 16 zonal railways are now being asked to send their feedback on the matter. A senior official said, "These drivers are already efficient. But the incidence of sabotage in trains driven by them has made everyone sit up. The drivers will be sensitised against possible means of sabotage."

There are suggestions to increase the frequency of the three-yearly refresher courses for the drivers. An official said,

"A key area of the refresher course is the psychoanalysis test and training. Increasing its recurrence seems to be the order of the day."

A railway driver usually begins his career as a diesel or electric loco assistant driver, then graduates as an assistant driver before becoming a shunter. After that, he can be promoted as a driver on passenger trains and finally on express trains. It takes more than 10 years for an assistant driver to work up the ranks to become a driver of a Rajdhani or a Shatabdi.

Training for a driver's position begins with preliminary theoretical classes followed by six weeks of "road learning" (also known as "learning road" or L R training) for hands-on experience with trains, tracks and signals. L R for most drivers tends to be for a particular route handled regularly. Among the suggestions being worked out is an intensified L R with a special eye on vulnerable stretches. Currently, if a driver has not operated on a section for over three months, he gets L R trips.

"The refresher course should be made an annual affair and the psychoanalysis test reworked," P K Chatterjee, former chief operations manager, Eastern Railway, said. The psychoanalysis test deals with building memory power, following direction, depth perception, number matching, perceptual speed and mechanical comprehension. "All these are important for sharpening the driver's alertness. So, it makes sense to increase frequency of the tests," said an official. The simulator training, currently a one-time measure, thanks to scarcity of training simulators, may now become a regular refresher training. Included in it will be medical tests and vision checks.

Railways hasn't met its own safety targets

Mahendra Kumar Singh, TNN, Jul 22, 2010, 12.43am IST

She may be facing heavy criticism for neglecting her portfolio but this picture explains why Mamata Banerjee couldn't care less. With assembly elections just months away, Mamata held a huge rally in Kolkata on Wednesday to observe 'Martyrs Day', an annual Trinamool Congress gathering in memory of 13 activists who fell to police bullets in 1993.

NEW DELHI: Here's one reason why the railways has such a bad safety record. The organization failed to meet targets it had set for itself in the railways' corporate safety plan (2003-2013) -- indicating the low priority it gave to passenger safety. This was revealed in a Comptroller and Auditor General of India's report tabled in Parliament in July last year. Till today, the railways hasn't been able to file an action taken report on CAG's findings.

A senior CAG official told TOI that the railways hadn't even met the targets set for the first phase of the plan. While the railways claims that it had completed 75.05% of the safety related works indicated in the plan by March 31, 2009, CAG officials are amazed at the PSU's delay in sending the ATR on its recommendations.

In the report, CAG had castigated the railways for failing to meet its self-proclaimed goals of modernizing signalling equipment, including installation of anti-collision devices (ACD), maintenance of assets and filling up safety related jobs. CAG pointed out that the railways was supposed to install modern signalling systems in all its zones during 2003-08 but did not come close to achieving this target.

The railways had adopted the 10-year plan in 2003 with the objective of having modern and reliable signalling systems and telecommunication systems, asset upgradation and renewal, maintenance, inspection and human resource development for signalling and telecommunication network.

In the plan, the railways targeted filling up all safety-related posts on priority but CAG found not a single zone had achieved this. In fact, the total safety-related vacancies had mounted to 85,102. The auditor found staff shortage in almost all sections concerning safety, including the operating, electrical, mechanical and civil departments.

Annoyed with the tardy progress, CAG observed that railways had failed to show any improvement in its signalling and telecommunication systems.

The top auditor also sought a review of plans to roll out ACD, observing in its latest report that the installation and functioning of these safety devices were not satisfactory in certain sections.

CAG, while examining the railways' safety performance during 2003-08, found that maintenance had not been done as per schedule in 11 out of 16 zones during the period.

Since April 1, 2007, the railways has been levying a special railway safety surcharge ranging between Rs 2 and Rs 100 per traveller. It was, in fact, supposed to discontinue the surcharge. Railways had claimed that all works planned under the safety fund had been completed by March 31, 2008 at a total cost of Rs 17,000 crore.

'Absentee' railway minister adds to Cong's ally trouble

TNN, Jul 22, 2010, 03.01am IST

NEW DELHI: The unending attack on railway minister Mamata Banerjee following the Birbhum train tragedy shows that the Trinamool Congress chief has emerged as yet another soft underbelly for Congress, after NCP and DMK have kept UPA-2 on its toes during its one year.

The "absentee railway minister" has compounded Congress woes by adding 'politics over welfare' charge to the opposition armoury which had enough in terms of corruption to target UPA.

Banerjee held a successful rally in Kolkata on Wednesday and the dais was shared by AICC state in-charge Keshva Rao and Congress's state leaders who made vows of partnership with Trinamool. But it did not do much to change the dominant view in the ruling camp that Banerjee will keep the party on its toes till assembly elections in West Bengal next year.

The shenanigans of NCP, be it the slip-up on price rise and farm production which is under the watch of Sharad Pawar or the IPL rigging, and the spectrum corruption charges of DMK's telecom minister, have made the Congress regime a sitting duck for the Opposition. The BJP and the Left have found a convenient weapon in price rise, IPL and spectrum to attack Congress which finds its hands tied owing to coalition compulsions.

The Sainthia train tragedy in Birbhum district has given fresh fodder to the Opposition ahead of the monsoon session of Parliament. What makes it serious for Congress is that Banerjee appears to be an easy target given her preoccupation with state politics and her known absenteeism from rail ministry.

The TC apart, Congress has had to bear skyrocketing food inflation and falling farm production, resulting in Pawar coming under attack from rivals. The NCP chief has not been spared even by Congressmen who feel
the party's image is paying for the mishandling of a ministry by an ally.

'Dead man's lever' could've stopped train

Jayanta Gupta, TNN, Jul 22, 2010, 03.08am IST

KOLKATA: The Sainthia train accident brought to the fore the need to look into systems inside locomotives and introduce a mechanism to ensure drivers and their assistants always remain alert. Save for EMU locals, the 'dead man's lever' or 'dead man's switch' has been phased out from all locomotives. As an alternative, Vigilance Control Device (VCD) is being fitted into locomotives in a phased manner. Till date, however, about 5% locomotives in the east have been fitted with VCDs.

Assuming that the driver and assistant driver of the Uttar Banga Express dozed off soon after leaving Gadadharpur Halt on Monday morning, the accident would never have taken place had the locomotive been fitted with a dead man's lever or a VCD.

After preliminary inquiry, officials seem to have arrived at the conclusion that driver of Uttar Banga Express and his co-driver dozed off, soon after leaving Gadadharpur Halt. "This is not the first instance of drivers having slept.
Though they get a long period to themselves after every run, there is no way of ascertaining whether they utilize this to catch up on sleep. Till now, driver error seems to be the most plausible cause. Even if the train had not stopped completely, its speed would have been sufficiently reduced to cause minimal damage, had they applied brakes in time," said a senior Eastern Railway official.

This is where a preventive machinery might have helped, said an official. "The dead man's lever is a knob that has to be kept pressed at all times to keep the train running. This system was introduced to prevent accidents, even if the driver died at his controls, hence the name. Unless a certain amount of pressure is maintained on the lever, brakes get automatically activated and the train slows down and comes to a stop. The VCD is a much more advanced device. Under this system, the crew in the locomotive will have to do 'something' every 60 seconds.
The driver or his assistant may touch a switch or press the horn. If they have nothing to do, they will have to press a switch on the console of the VCD every 60 seconds to inform the software that they are alert," an official said.

But why were dead man's levers phased out? According to sources, the decision was taken as a measure to make a driver's life "more comfortable". Drivers would complain that it was difficult for them to keep sitting at the console and exert the right amount of pressure on the lever.
Railways to take over catering services from IRCTC
New Delhi, July 22 (PTI)

In a major setback to the IRCTC, Railways have decided to strip the PSU of its catering responsibilities in Rajdhani, Duronto, Shatabdi and all other mail and express trains.

The Catering Policy-2010 finalised by Railways have clearly spelt out that "Railways shall progressively take over management of all mobile catering services including base kitchens, pantry cars and all food stalls in railway premises".

At present, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd (IRCTC), a Railway subsidiary, is responsible for serving food in about 300 trains including in premier trains like Rajdhani, Duronto and Shatabdi.

With this move, IRCTC will forgo at least Rs 200 crore catering business, said a senior IRCTC official.

Railway Board will now determine the menu and tariff for the standard meals, breakfast, tea, coffee and catering charges for meals, etc., which are included in the fare.

Rlys takes over catering; IRCTC to lose Rs 400 cr

Updated on Thursday, July 22, 2010, 22:40 IST

New Delhi:
Taking passengers complaints into account, railways today decided to take over the catering responsibility and entrusted zonal railways to ensure food quality onboard trains and in stations while also protecting the interest of small time vendors.
The new catering policy 2010, would come into effect within three months. During the transition phase, railways will manage these services through departmental supervision by engaging reputed professionals, railway sources said.

Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd, a railway subsidiary which handled the catering till now, will lose business to the tune of Rs 400 crore in view of the new catering policy. It will now be responsible for selling e-ticket and i-ticket and running the Rail Neer business.

Railway Board will now determine the menu and tariff for the standard meals, breakfast, tea, coffee and catering charges for meals, etc., which are included in the fare, they said.

The new policy comes in the wake of increased passenger complaints about the quality of food served onboard trains and in stations.

As per the new catering policy, zonal railways will now play a significant role in improving the services in trains and stations.

The zonal railways will be responsible for ensuring that the standards, as laid down, are maintained and policy directives issued by the Railway Board from time to time are strictly complied with.

They will institutionalise a mechanism for monitoring the catering services.

Zonal railways will also decide the extent, type and scale of catering services required to be provided at each station, on board trains and ensure adequate availability of affordable food for common passengers.

The policy says the base kitchens and the mobile catering services will be taken over by the zonal railways in phases.

The zones will also be instrumental in setting up a grid of modern mega, medium and small base kitchens to ensure that all mobile catering are serviced through these base kitchens to improve quality, hygiene, cleanliness and use of standard ingredients for food served on trains.


CPM putting cockroaches in train food: Mamata
Updated on Thursday, July 22, 2010, 14:11 IST

Kolkata: Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee has suggested CPM's hand in the train accident in Sainthia and the Jnaneswari Express mishap and ruled out resigning on moral grounds.

"I am prepared to resign if the CPM guarantees that it will not indulge in sabotage," she said slamming the Marxists for demanding her resignation in the wake of Monday's accident in Birbhum district which left 66 persons dead.

Banerjee, who had resigned twice earlier as union minister, said people were ringing her up to tell her not to walk into CPM's trap by quitting.

"They have been planning sabotage. They are trying to ruin the (reputation of) Railways by letting cockroaches into food. It is time for the CPM to go. The Jnaneswari Express accident took place on May 28 two before the Kolkata Municipal Corporation elections," she pointed out.

Banerjee was addressing her party's mammoth Martyr's Day rally organised in the memory of 13 Youth Congress workers killed in a police firing here on this day in 1993.

"The accident at Sainthia occurred on July 19 before our Martyr's Day rally today. Both took place around 2:00 am. Many people were killed. This should be probed. The CBI is investigating the earlier accident.

"They (Marxists) are not planning development, but opening clips on tracks. Some comrades are drawing up scientific plans. After the Jnaneswari (accident) they strung up a poster claiming that it was an accident. Who were behind it should be investigated. It is sabotage," she said
Tragedies, Mamata on back foot.Ritesh K Srivastava

TMC chief Mamata Banerjee’s stint as Union Railway Minister in the past one year has been extremely disappointing. Frequent train disasters have badly tarnished Mamata’s pro-people’s image since Railways are the lifeline of India and the common man’s means of transportation.

After General Elections, Mamata’s induction in the UPA-II as Railways Minister was welcomed amid hopes that the firebrand politician will revive the fortunes of Indian Railways and rescue it from the gimmickry of her predecessor Lalu Yadav.

Blot on pro-people image

Known for her clean image in politics, Didi has clearly failed to restore people’s waning faith in railways as the safest mode of transport in India.

Misleading statements made by Mamata Banerjee, her pointless attack on Left and her ‘conspiracy theories’ after every train mishap has only spoiled her reputation as a leader of the masses.

She might have introduced new trains, launched various innovative services, reduced cost of running trains and kept the rail fares untouched, but she has undoubtedly failed to prevent the loss of precious human lives in train accidents.

In the wake of train tragedies one after another, the crusader from West Bengal is finding it hard to justify her continuance in the central cabinet as Union Minister of Railways.

Mamata’s only agenda seems to be prising West Bengal from the clutches of the Left and strengthening her party’s support base in her home state. Buoyed by TMC’s recent victory over the Left Front in the West Bengal municipal polls, Didi seems to be focussing more on the Left’s misrule than improving the state of Indian Railways.

Probably this has given credence to the Opposition’s hue and cry over her constant ignorance of her Ministry as one of the factors responsible for the poor state of Railways.

Autocratic mannerism

It seems that Left’s divorce from the Congress-led UPA alliance has given Mamata a free hand to run the Indian Railways in a ham-fisted manner. In the past one year, she has transferred over a dozen Railway Board Chairman without assigning any reason. She has been facing flak for transferring top railways official before the completion of their mandatory three-year term, again for no apparent reasons. It is sad to see how top railway officials are blaming in one voice the Uttar Banga Express driver Madhab Chandra Dey- a recipient of the Driver of the Year Award from the railways- for the Sainthia tragedy. The family of Dey, who died on the spot in the Sainthia train tragedy, is deeply hurt by accusations of ‘erratic behaviour’ levelled on him.

Vital statistics

If we go by statistics, then the latest train accident at Sainthia in West Bengal's Birbhum district, which claimed the lives of at least 66 people and injured over 150 passengers, is the sixth major tragedy in the past one year and the second in less than two months in the state.

An analysis of data on train accidents over the past 20 years shows that Mamata Banerjee as a Rail Minister is no better than her predecessors. A look at the number of causalities in train accidents since financial year 1990-91 makes Mamata the fifth worst performer in the dubious list of worst rail ministers.

The year 1995-96, when CK Jaffer Sharief was the Railway Minister, a total of 427 deaths took place making him the worst minister in recent times. With 374 fatalities in 1999-2000, Nitish Kumar comes second in this list. He is followed by Lalu Yadav as there were 302 deaths in 2006-07 when he was the minister.

Looking at Mamata’s performance from November 10, 2009 to July 19, 2010, more than 233 deaths have occurred so far. The figure is unacceptably high.

If we look at the total number of casualties taking place during the entire tenure of a minister, then the terms of CK Jaffer Sharief and Lalu Prasad Yadav saw over 900 deaths each. Nitish Kumar served two terms of two years each, during which 900 fatalities occurred However, if compared with them, Mamata's past term (of about two years) along with her current tenure has so far witnessed 518 fatalities.

Rail accidents claim one person every second day considering the average fatalities for the past 20 years which is 186 per year. However, the sad part of Indian Railways’ success story has been that there are still so many deaths despite technological advancements.

Rampant corruption

Rampant corruption in Indian Railways, the formidable nexus of rail agents and travel agencies, flawed ticket booking rules, improper administration resulting in chaos at major railway stations and lack of proper security has only annoyed the common man.

Of late, the Railways has come under scanner for not working in coordination with security agencies, violating its safety policies, and not fulfilling its responsibility by stepping up precautionary measures to protect passengers and railway property in danger zones.

It is very unpleasant that every time a tragedy occurs, Centre and state governments as well as Railways merely announce obligatory compensations for victims and get on with relief and rescue operations.

What is further disappointing is to know that the money meant for upgrading safety of trains and passengers is often diverted to the expansion of rail networks.

Each time a new minister takes charge of the Railways, providing better train connectivity to his native state or his constituency becomes his foremost policy.

Measures required

It is also true that accidents are unpredictable, but the scale of human suffering, loss of lives, and destruction of properties worth billions of rupees can surely be minimised to a great extent.

And for this, the concerned authorities need to take extra measures that include training and imparting new skills, providing better equipment for surveillance and monitoring, better co-ordination among Centre and state agencies, well-equipped armed forces for security and an efficient disaster response mechanism.

The Anti-Collision Devices meant for averting major accidents must be installed in a speedy manner across all zones of Indian Railways.

The Indian Railways boast of being the third largest rail network after Russia and China and being the largest employer among railway networks of the world, but the frequent train tragedies mars its success story.

Slow modernisation, lack of technical know-how, human error and the armed conflict by the home-grown Naxals have all made Indian Railways vulnerable to such an extent that passengers are now scared of travelling by trains.

This also raises doubts over our ability and preparedness to start high-velocity bullet trains in India.

It is high time that Mamata Didi wakes up from deep slumber and takes steps required to rescue Railways from all that ails it.

Break up Indian Railways to boost safety

Widespread corruption and alleged Maoist sabotage are costing lives. It's time the Indian government took radical action

Early morning last Monday, a train packed with people approached Santhia station in West Bengal, India rammed full speed into another train on the same tracks. 63 people have been reported dead so far with at least another 150 injured. While eyewitnesses have said it overshot a signal, the railway department has not ruled out sabotage. This is the second accident in two months in West Bengal state alone, where the earlier mishap claimed 148 lives, again thought to have happened because of overshooting a signal. The police investigation accused the Maoist rebels of sabotage, but they have denied the charge.
Started by the British in 1853 and initially run by independent companies, the railway network was later taken over by the government and grew rapidly, connecting almost all parts of the country, covering 9,000km by 1880. Later the system bequeathed to a newly independent India was maintained as a state-run organisation. Today Indian Railways has grown to employ 1.54 million people and traverses 63,000km, one of the largest in the world. Even with increases in revenue from passenger travel and fright transport, development has been left lagging behind.
There has been a decline in the number of accidents over the years. But 2008-09 still saw 177 incidents resulting in several fatalities. There are plans to use devices that would without human intervention stop trains that overshoot signals. Though some tests are being conducted and the railways assert that it has been introduced in some parts of the country, the system remains inadequate and urgently needs to be perfected and applied throughout the network as standard procedure.
Given the magnitude of the network and the passengers it carries everyday, contemptible little augmentation of safety procedures has been made. To this day 17,000 unmanned railway crossings exist, that are said to cause nearly 70% of the fatalities. Measures that are standard in the west appear to be applied in improvidence sporadically and almost as a languid afterthought.
Despite statements from Indian Railways that the safety of 13 million people it transports everyday is of paramount importance and claims that a number of technologically innovative steps have been taken, little has actually been done on the ground to reduce the risk of accidents. A special £2.5bn railway safety fund has been set up to mend decaying tracks, repair bridges and introduce safety measures, but this money shockingly remains ineffectually used.
Accidents apparently due to sabotage by Maoists rebels have also swelled recently, especially in the north-east of the country where they are resolute. But there is a danger of officials, politicians and the police, shifting blame on every occasion. Though Maoist rebels were accused of causing the previous crash in May, no concrete evidence was provided by the police nor was a parallel investigation conducted.
Corruption, spreading to epidemic levels within the organisation, has been unexpectedly acknowledged by Indian Railways. Procedures are relentlessly broken, where officials can straightforwardly be bribed to award maintenance contracts and recruit staff. Questions about the worth, credentials and aptitude of such hired staff are only raised when an accident of this nature happens where initial evidence points to gross human blunder. Though a vigilance directorate has been in place for some time now, nationwide recruitment rackets have become native to the system. But a defiant railway minister has repeatedly said that no corruption will be tolerated.
Indian Railways hides behind excuses, citing the ineptitude of previous governments, human error and a lack of funds. Surely the deaths of its passengers due to inattention, fragmentary procedures and archaic equipment should propel the authorities to take radical action that ensures lasting change – conceivably as radical as washing their hands of the bloated system that has become so ungainly that its true nature is incomprehensible.
Breaking up the system into segments and privatising the network could be the answer. This may prove to be difficult for a country that has long believed the state to be the bastion of social services. In 1947, a newly independent and ambitious India took on the on the great responsibility of establishing a socialist state, aiming to be the exclusive provider of employment and services to its masses. Vacating its seat of power and control to private enterprise is only done with great reluctance. Indian Railways is up the creek without a paddle. The government of India, recognising the situation it is in, needs to give up its proud status as sole administrator.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

TUESDAY, JULY 20, 2010

67 killed in train smash
Raktima Bose
At least 67 persons were killed and 121 injured when the Sealdah-bound New Cooch Behar-Sealdah Uttarbanga Express rammed the rear of the stationary Bhagalpur-Ranchi Vananchal Express at the Sainthia station in the early hours of Monday.
The engine of the Uttarbanga Express and the parcel van and two general compartments of the Vananchal Express were completely destroyed. So great was the impact of the collision that one of the general compartments was flung over the footbridge of the station.
The drivers of the Uttarbanga Express, M.C. Dey and M.K. Mondal, and the guard of the Vananchal Express, A. Mukherjee, were among those killed.
While most of those injured persons were admitted to the Suri hospital, some of them were shifted to hospitals in Bardhaman district and Kolkata.
Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee visited the accident site and announced an ex gratia of Rs. 5 lakh to the relatives of those killed and a job to one from each bereaved family.
Ms. Banerjee termed the incident “unfortunate” and ordered an inquiry.
The disaster occurred within two months of the May 28 derailment of the Jnaneswari Express in Paschim Medinipur district, that killed 150 people.
According to Eastern Railway’s General Manager V.N. Tripathy, the Vananchal Express was at Platform 4 around 1.50 a.m. when the Uttarbanga Express rammed it at high speed.
“What happened is something very unusual. The Uttarbanga Express had a scheduled stop here but was still running at a very high speed. We are not ruling out any possibility, including sabotage. Commissioner of Railway Safety R.P. Yadav has already initiated an inquiry,” Mr. Tripathy said.
Most of the passengers of the general compartments of the Vananchal Express were asleep when the incident took place.
Officials of the State’s Criminal Investigation Department inspected the spot in the evening.
Rescue operations continued throughout the day, with the Army’s disaster management team joining hands with railway and police officials to extricate the bodies.

Mishap a case of neglect; PM should take a call: CPI(M)

Attacking Railway Minister and rival Trinamool leader Mamata Banerjee over spate of train accidents, the CPI(M) on Monday said the latest mishap in West Bengal was a clear case of negligence and asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to “take a call” on issue.
Terming Ms. Banerjee’s statement suggesting that the accident could be an act of sabotage as “highly irresponsible”, CPI (M) leader Sitaram Yechury said the accident in Sainthia was “clearly a case of negligence. There has been no act of sabotage, nothing has been removed.
“You have a Minister whose attention is elsewhere and the country is paying the price for that”, he said “this is something which cannot be accepted in the collective responsibility of the Cabinet.
“The Prime Minister has to take a call. It is high time he takes a call because in the past one year, the highest numbers of railway accidents have taken place,” Mr. Yechury claimed.
Replying to questions, he said “it is for the Prime Minister to take whatever action he deems fit and for the people to judge“.
“Earlier the Minister used to say that somebody else has caused the accident. But here is a train standing at a station and another hits it from behind.... what about the anti-collision devices and other high technology which was promised in the (Railway) budget.”
Asked whether the CPI(M) would demand Ms. Banerjee’s resignation, he said “asking for resignation is meaningless because in this government, the levels of political morality is so low that it does not matter” and added that what is required was rectification of the situation.
“People will have to see and call spade a spade. They have to see how things have been allowed to degenerate because of this high level of neglect”, Mr. Yechury said.
In a statement, the CPI (M) Polit Bureau expressed shock and sorrow at the Railway accident and conveyed deep condolences to the families of those killed and sympathy to those injured.
“The number of rail accidents has been unprecedented in the last one year. Maintenance of equipment and safety measures are being neglected in the railways,” the party said.
“One lakh jobs in safety related jobs remain vacant. The government cannot keep quiet about the present state of affairs in the railways,” the CPI (M) said.

"Sorry ... it is not a casual thing," says Mamata

Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee raised suspicions about the cause of the second major train accident in West Bengal saying "We have some doubt in our mind. Whatever happened is not casual thing".
“We are really sorry for this incident … it is not a casual thing. We will take necessary action and strong steps will be taken against whoever is found responsible,” Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee said after inspecting the accident site here on Monday.
Ms. Banerjee described the incident as “unfortunate.” She apologised for the quick succession of rail tragedies in West Bengal in the last two months. A high-level inquiry would be conducted into the Monday's accident, she said.
Ms. Banerjee, who visited the spot where the Uttarbanga Express and the Vananchal Express were involved in an accident, said on Monday that whether to demand a CBI probe would be taken only after the Commissioner of Railway Safety concluded an inquiry. Earlier, while leaving for Sainthia from Sealdah, Ms. Banerjee told journalists that she had “certain doubts” over the incident. She also visited the Suri hospital where the injured were being treated and reiterated the promise of ex gratia payment.
West Bengal Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta also visited the accident site and announced the State government's decision to pay Rs.3 lakh to the kin of those killed and bear the medical expenses of the injured.
“We [the State government] demand a serious inquiry into the incident so that the perpetrators are brought to book,” he said.
West Bengal PCC president Manas Bhunia said the authorities should work together for relief and rescue operations than engage in “cheap politics.”

Brakes not touched; circumstances ‘out of normal:' Board chief
Ananya Dutta
Both loco pilot and assistant of Uttarbanga Express were sitting in their chairs; no effort made to jump out
Pointing out anomalies in the events leading up to Monday's train collision at Sainthia in West Bengal, Railway Board Chairman Vivek Sahay did not rule out the possibility of sabotage and hinted at “willful interference.”
The circumstances of the accident were “out of normal,” he said and emphasised that the “brakes were not touched.”
“According to prima facie reports, we know that the brakes were not applied. The emergency brake was also not applied. Both the loco pilot and the assistant loco pilot were sitting in their chairs; no effort has been made to jump out of the train,” Mr. Sahay told journalists here after visiting the site along with senior board officials.
Speed restriction
The accident must have occurred just after 2.01 a.m. when the Uttarbanga Express, running at 90 km an hour, rammed the Vananchal Express from behind, he said. At 1.8 km from the Sainthia station, there was a bridge on which there was a speed restriction of 30 km per hour.
Also, since Sainthia was a scheduled stop for the Uttarbanga Express, the train should have approached the station at 30 or 40 km an hour.
Secondly, the driver of the Uttarbanga Express and his assistant also ignored the ‘stop' home signal. Even if the driver had ignored it, the assistant driver could have applied the emergency brakes, Mr. Sahay said.
“Why was the train travelling so fast? What went wrong,” asked Mr. Sahay, adding this would be “the focus of investigations.”
Mr. Sahay also ruled out the possibility of brake failure because the Uttarbanga Express had stopped at the previous station, at Gadadhar, minutes before the accident. It had arrived at Gadadhar at 1.54 a.m. and departed at 1.56 a.m.“Its driver, M.C. Dey, was an ‘A' category driver — a category given to the best drivers for safety. His safety record had been exceptionally good,” Mr. Sahay said.
The guard was traumatised and could not be interrogated so far, Mr. Sahay said.
Frequency of accidents
On being asked about the frequency of accidents, several of them in the past few months, Mr. Sahay claimed that in fact the average accident rate had declined, but several incidents on mail and express trains occurred leading to higher causalities.
“Many of them have been found to have been caused by wilful interference. There have been five cases of accidents by wilful interference since January this year … Up to now, no Railway employee has been found to be involved,” he said.

Nobody can predict accident, says Pranab
Senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee on Monday sought to dismiss suggestions that Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee’s absence from her Ministry was the reason for recurrence of train accidents.
“Accidents are accidents. Nobody can predict, that’s why it is an accident. I don’t think so,” he told reporters when asked whether the country needs a full time Railway Minister as there was another accident in less than two months.
More than 60 people are feared dead and 90 injured in an early morning collision between Uttarbanga Express and Vananchal Express that took place at Sainthia station in Birbhum district of West Bengal.
Meanwhile, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has condoled the loss of lives in the train accident in Sainthia and conveyed her deep condolences to the bereaved families and wished speedy recovery to the injured.
On May 28, 148 people had lost their lives in another accident in the state when the Jnaneshwari express had met with an accident near Jhargram, with the Railway minister alleging a ‘political conspiracy’ behind it.

Sabotage not ruled out : Eastern Rly GM
The Railways today did not rule out the possibility of sabotage in the train collision involving Uttarbanga Express and the Vananchal Express here that claimed the lives of at least 60 passengers.
“Nothing can be ruled out. Ho sakta hai hamara equipment se chherchhar hui ho. Ye sab janch ke bad pata chalega (It may be possible that our equipment might have been tampered with. It will be known only after inquiry),” Eastern Railways General Manager V. N. Tripathy told PTI.
“The Commissioner of Railway safety is holding an inquiry after which we will be able to know what exactly happened.”
To another question, he said that the Uttarbanga Express, which rammed into the rear of Vananchal Express, seemed to be running at a much higher speed than it was supposed to while entering the Sainthia station.
“What caused the accident is a mystery to us. The driver of the Uttarbanga Express was a very good driver. He had stopped the train properly at previous station. We are puzzled,” the Eastern Railways general manager said.
At least 60 people have been killed and over 90 injured in the train accident today.
“The toll may rise as some are still battling for life in hospital,” he said.
Mr. Tripathy said all the bodies had been extricated from the damaged compartments and all injured rescued.
“There is no one in any of the affected coaches. We have checked them,” he said.
A team of National Disaster Relief Force is at the site with sniffer dogs to trace anyone who was still trapped.
Altogether 167 army men and officers arrived with doctors and para-medical staff from nearby Panagarh and Kanchrapara army stations.
The team members included engineers and metal cutting specialists.
The engine of the Uttarbanga express was totally damaged after it rammed into the rear of the Vananchal Express in Sainthia station in Birbhum district. The luggage van of the Vananchal Express split into two and lay beside the track.

Paswan demands judicial probe
LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan on Monday demanded a judicial probe into the train mishap in Birbhum district of West Bengal and blamed Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee for the accident which left 60 people dead and over 90 others injured.
“It is a serious lapse on the part of the Railways...There were no Naxal activities and no fog even then such a major accident occurred,” Mr. Paswan told reporters here.
The former Railway Minister demanded a judicial probe into the incident.
Alleging that Ms. Banerjee was concentrating on poll-bound West Bengal alone at the cost of the Railways, Mr. Paswan asked her to make her stand clear whether she would focus only on her home state or look after the affairs of her ministry.
At least 60 people were killed and over 90 passengers injured when a train in high speed tore through the rear of another at the Sainthia station in Bhirbhum district, after it apparently overshot the signal in the small hours of the day.

Loudspeaker announcements failed to halt Uttarbanga Express

Authorities at Sainthia station made frantic announcements over loudspeakers to the driver of the Uttarbanga Express moments before it tore into the Vananchal Express here on Monday.
“We announced repeatedly over loudspeakers asking the driver of the Uttarbanga Express to brake as the Vananchal Express was just starting to leave platform No. 4,” Assistant station master of Sainthia Pulak Chakraborty told reporters.
Mr. Chakraborty said that the Uttarbanga Express entered the station at a high speed on the same track as the Vananchal Express although the ‘home signal’ was not given.
The Uttarbanga Express, which was to halt at the station, entered at a high speed and collided on the rear of the Vananchal Express with a loud bang, Salam Sheik, a hawker, said.
“We ran for safety at first, but returned to help with the rescue operations,” he said.
A cabinman, who preferred anonymity, said that the Uttarbanga Express driver was at fault.
After the collision, tinned condiments, gutkha pouches, plastic bangles, plastic torchlights, mineral water bottles, scarfs and towels were found strewn on the platform and the tracks.
Three motorbikes, wrapped in jute bags, were also lying on the tracks.
Eyewitnesses claimed that these were being unloaded from the vendor compartments of the Vananchal Express, which was already running five hours late.
Uttarbanga driver violated red signal: Signal in-charge

The driver of the Uttarbanga Express was alerted by the station master that a train was already there on the tracks but he violated the red signal, Rehmat Ali, the signal in-charge of the Sainthia station where the deadly collision took place claimed on Tuesday.
“I am sure that the signal was red. But the driver violated the red signal and entered the platform. No one in Uttarbanga Express, neither the driver nor the guard contacted me saying that brake was not working,” he said.
He said the station master alerted the driver of the Uttarbanga Express over walkie talkie and asked him to stop the train as the signal was red and there was already a train on the platform.
“But he got no response and within 30 seconds, the two trains collided,” he said.
Recounting the moments before the Sealdah-bound Uttarbanga Express rammed into the Vananchal Express, he said that within 30 seconds of the Vananchal Express moving out from the platform, he got a call from the voice cabin that another train was entering the platform.
“I did not know which train it was. Because Vananchal Express was already there on platform number four and no train can enter the platform unless it is cleared,” he said.
Assistant station master of Sainthia Pulak Chakraborty had yesterday said that the Uttarbanga Express entered the station at a high speed on the same track as the Vananchal Express although the ‘home signal’ was not given.
A cabin man, who preferred anonymity, had said that the Uttarbanga Express driver was at fault.
Sixty-three people, including the driver and assistant driver of the Uttaranga Express, were killed and 92 others injured in the collision.
Terrible train of accidents
Fourteen railway accidents in ten months, the second in West Bengal in two months. But this time the Railways cannot blame the Maoists, who were behind the blast in the track that resulted in a serious derailment and the death of 146 passengers on May 28. In the wee hours of Monday, about 190 km from Kolkata, a speeding Uttar Banga Express rammed into the Vananchal Express that was just leaving the Sainthia station. The fundamental safety procedure in the Railways is that when a track is occupied, the signalling system will not let in another train. There have been no reports of any sabotage. So there can be only two possible reasons for the latest tragedy on the tracks that claimed at least 60 lives: the driver of the Uttar Banga Express, who died in the collision, either disregarded the signal; or the signal failed. For all that, the Uttar Banga Express was supposed to stop at that station. So what could explain the speed at which it entered the very same platform from which the other Express train was just about to leave? The impact of the crash was such that one of the Vananchal Express coaches mounted the pedestrian overbridge ahead of it. As the tragedy occurred some time between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m., the passengers must have been fast asleep and rescue operations also took some time to get under way. Two of the Vananchal Express coaches that took the impact were unreserved compartments; so even the number of passengers in them, not to mention the identity of the dead, took some time to establish. In addition to the Railway relief teams, the Army sent a special contingent to help with the rescue effort, which involved the use of cutters to extricate bodies.
Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee is clearly not up to the job of ensuring safety on the tracks. Against the backdrop of tragedy, her modus has been to use the Maoist-caused railway accidents in West Bengal to blame the Left Front government. Her predecessors at the Rail Bhavan lost no time in accusing her of neglect and asking her to choose between Bengal politics and the Railway Ministry. The stream of accidents in recent months is a stark reminder that the Indian Railways needs to do substantially more to ensure safety and security on the tracks. Whether it was a signal failure or a human error this time, the Railway administration must urgently address the key issues — the modernisation of safety equipment, the maintenance of track and signals, the failure of top management to put in place state-of-the-art ‘fail-safe mechanisms,' and the re-training and fitness of the staff, especially drivers, their assistants, guards, and those at the stations — to prevent the recurrence of such mishaps.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

New technology in trains faulty
Rajendra Aklekar, Hindustan Times

Mumbai, July 17, 2010

Are the new-age trains safe for Mumbai commuters? A new finding by engineers in the city's suburban railway network has revealed that a change of technology in a vital component could be the reason behind the increasing number of derailments of these trains. On Sunday, first three wheels of the ladies compartment of a Virar-Churchgate fast train derailed at Mahim station as it was crossing over from fast to slow track.
Railway officials said if the problem is established, they will make any amendments necessary. However, sources said this could be an onerous task, given the fact that more than 1,000 coaches — equivalent to more than 90 trains — have arrived.
The train has been installed with air-suspension cushion springs for a jerk-free journey and better comfort. However, officials said these are posing to be a problem for the train when it is on curves or gradients.
The earlier version of the local train had 'flexicoil,' springs, which absorbed pressure in all directions when a train negotiates curves and gradients. The replacement of flexicoil with air suspension could be one of the factors leading to the new trains going off the track, say officials.
"If you study the derailments on Central and Western railways over the past few years, most of them have happened on crossovers (where train switches tracks) and most on curves,” an official from the mechanical engineering department said.
Railway officials have conveyed this to the top brass of the Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation (MRVC), which is co-ordinating the World Bank-funded Mumbai Urban Transport Project, under which these trains have been bought.
A simulation of the new train's running found that when the wheels negotiate a curve, there is resistance, leading to friction. This leads to derailment.
The air suspension equipment has been successfully introduced in a number of outstation trains. However, these trains have also been installed with flexicoils for additional safety.
However, railway officials said there was no need to panic.
"A new train and technology has been introduced in Mumbai after almost 85 years and it will face such teething troubles. We can always make changes and rectify the error," he added.
MRVC managing director Pramod Chander Sehgal denied that there was any major problem with the new trains.
"The air suspension technology has been used in a few local trains that have been plying for a long-time and there were no complaints. Moreover, all the designs of the new train and safety parameters have been accepted only after the approval of the Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO), the apex research body of Indian Railways."
A.K. Gupta, executive director (Electric Multiple Unit-local trains) with RDSO said: "I can only say that it is not a completely new technology. It has been used in Mumbai since 2001. There are other issues involved."

Monday, July 12, 2010

Spain team won its first World Cup when Andres Iniesta scored an extra—time goal in a 1—0 win over the Netherlands. A late goal from AndrĂ©s Iniesta gave Spain victory over Holland at the death of a cynical and ill-tempered final.

Spain, long tagged a perennial underachiever before winning the 2008 European Championship to end a 44—year title drought, had never before gone past the quarterfinals. The team finished fourth at the 1950 World Cup when the playoff system was different.
A deafening roar rose from Madrid, including the sound of blaring vuvuzuela horns imported from South Africa, when captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas lifted the World Cup trophy at Soccer City.
The mayhem and nastiness of the occasion was an encumbrance for Spain, who will have visualised a wholly different type of game. It was potentially unsettling that victory should be seen as their destiny considering that they had never even reached the final before. Vicente del Bosque's side, for that matter, have developed a highly individual style founded on exceptional technique that exhausts and demoralises opponents as a midfield of supreme artistry confisca tes the ball.

Forlan gets Golden Ball, Mueller wins Golden Shoe

Uruguay striker Diego Forlan has been awarded the Golden Ball as the World Cup’s best player, and Germany forward Thomas Mueller won the Golden Boot as the tournament’s top scorer with five goals.
Forlan was voted the most outstanding player of the tournament by accredited media after leading his team to the semi-finals.
The 20-year-old Mueller, who helped Germany take third place with his five goals and three assists, also won the Best Young Player award. Forlan, Spain striker David Villa and Netherlands playmaker Wesley Sneijder also scored five times but each had one assist. Villa and Sneijder both failed to score in Sunday’s final, won 1-0 by Spain.
Spain’s Iker Casillas won the Golden Glove as the top goalkeeper.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Decisions of the CWC meeting held on 26th and 27th June 2010

1. The Central Working Committee meeting of AILRSA held at its Central Camp Office ,Ghaziabad, on 26th and 27th June 2010 expressed its vehement protest against the FTC report being the same is prepared with pre occupied mind, keeping blind and deaf to the representations and justifications given from our side and misinterpreting all the facts and hence denying justice to entire Loco Running Staff.

The FTC is appointed to resolve the grievances of Loco Running Staff avoiding the possible delay in finalizing the issue through the procedural departmental anomaly committee. But the FTC shirked its responsibility on the plea of departmental anomaly committee, although the terms and references of anomaly committee do not cover all of our demands.

They had wrongly stated that the Running Allowance rates are doubled with effect from 01-01-2006 (Para 3.2.3).they stated the revision of Running Allowance is a package that cannot be disturbed where the fact lies the recommendation for doubling by Joint Committee 2008 was merely on the assumption of doubling of TA rates, which was tripled/quadrupled later.

The entire report is silent about the arguments placed by the staff side so this meeting demands to reject the findings of the FTC.

Further the Railway Board officials present before RLC, New Delhi on 25-06-2010 and stated that “the recommendations of the FTC is put up before appropriate forum of the Railway Board and the matter will be examined at a larger forum to see that it gives satisfaction to the large number of Railway employees” and agreed to submit implementation report before RLC, New Delhi within 45 days. The Rly. Official further requested our representation to wait the final verdict of Rly. Board. Considering the new developments the CWC calls upon the entire Loco Running Staff to stall the agitation programmes for 45 days so that the final decision of Railway Board be released to take our further course of action uniformly all over India. Simultaneously we urge the Railway administration to resolve the issues to the full satisfaction of the Loco Running Staff.

2. A public interest litigation and the Rly. Management through GM/C-Rly. and W. Rly. is filed a case in the High Court of Mumbai in connection with the agitation of Locomen on 3rd and 4th May 2010. The litigation may lead to bad precedences. So the CWC directs the zonal committee of Central Railway to see that the case is pursued effectively through the JAF and also direct all other zonal committees to help them financially by sending Rs.2000/- immediately through the Central committee.

3. Mumbai High Court as we informed has directed to start conciliation before RLC Mumbai on the Locomen demands. The CWC suggests that the Joint Action Forum to confine the conciliation proceedings to issues pertaining to the Motormen and local issues before the RLC Mumbai and let the other issues to the conciliation of RLC New Delhi. The CWC also invites two representatives from the JAF to attend the conciliation proceedings before the RLC New Delhi on 20th August 2010, so as we shall maintain both the conciliations complimentary to each other.

4. All zonal/divisional/branch secretaries are directed to stop collection of membership of 2009 and send the collected membership with quota immediately to the Central. All zonal/divisional/branch secretaries shall start enrollment of membership for the year 2010 and shall be completed and send the membership statement by the end of August 2010. Those who are not in possession of membership book for the year 2010 may contact the Central Treasurer immediately

5. A detailed leaflet to be drafted centrally explaining the decisions of the CWC and published in English and Hindi immediately.
6. Sustained and continuous campaign programme by holding group meetings, worker’s meet, and tour programme in the zone by the team of zonal leaders to explain the situation and our task.

In order to explain the entire course of agitations organized by us, the results, the attitude of the Railway administration and the Federations and also to prepare staff for final action regional conventions with a Rally inviting representatives of trade unions, democratic organizations, people’s representatives, representatives of passengers/rail users as per the following programme to be conducted within 10th August 2010 and finally organizing a national convention at Mumbai on 25th August 2010. The convention shall be organized jointly by the Railways noted against each and the comrades nominated shall be in-charge of organizing the same. The date of the regional conventions be fixed with the consent of Secretary General.

Vijayawada SR,SWR,SCR Com.L.Mony
VSKP division of ECoR

Kolkata ER,SE,KUR & SBP Com.N.B.Dutta
Divisions of ECoR,
& Metro/Kolkata

Patna NE,ECR Com.D.Srivatsava

Jodhpur/Kota NWR,WCR,WR Com.Lunaram Siyag

Ludhiana NR, parts of NWR & WCR Com.Paramjit Singh

Nagpur SEC,part of CR Com. M.P.Deo
New jalpaiguri NFR Com.Sanjit Sarkar

The national convention at Mumbai or Kalyan to be organized in consultation with Motormen Association. Com.D.S.Koparkar will be responsible for organizing the national convention. The expenditure will be shared by AILRSA of WR & CR and Motormen Association. A token monetary assistance can also be given by the Central committee. Later, Com. Sunish informed undersigned that “ONAM” festival starts from 25th .Aug. and so the date of national convention may be deferred which will be known to you with sufficient imagine of time.

7. A generator set and an additional water tank for the use at the Central camp office, Ghaziabad with an approximate cost of Rs.20000/- to be purchased from the central fund.

Secretary General

Thursday, July 1, 2010

AILRSA CWC held at Ghaziabad on 26 and 27 june 2010. Presided by Com. L Mony , Central President. Com. MN Prasad submitted report. The meeting discussed the stock of situation based on RLC/ NDLS conciliation talk held on 25.06.10. In which RLC has instructed the Railway Board to "decide the issue wxpeditiously and submit the report within 45 days'
since conciliation talk is on no direct action can be planned. Hence the meeting decided to conduct Conventions in different metros and important places by inviting various Trade union , Political leaders. The Southern Railway, South Western Railway, South Central railway and Vishakapattanam Division will organise one convention at Vijayawada. After the all conventions National Convention will be held at Bombay at Last week of August.

Welcome To AILRSA....


Admin Area

Blog Archive

AILRSA 1970 - . Powered by Blogger.

Are You Satisfied with 7th Pay commission ?

Popular Posts

Recent Posts

Text Widget