Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Beware! railway is sleeping

When train accidents keep increasing at an alarming rate in the country, there are 86,108 posts lying vacant in the railway security section. The vacancies are in the running staff section like loco pilot, station master and opertaing staff sections. The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) have recommended filling up of all posts directly relating to security.

Due to shortage of sufficient staff, the employees are having a miserable time doing overtime duties, denial of leave and rest. The All India Loco Running Staff Association had also informed that they are losing attention due to over work. The railways have cut short the number of carriage and wagon staff who check mechanical and engineering works. There were many in almost all stations but now they are being appointed only in major stations. The CAG also reports that the railways are operating 223 engines that were recommended to be abandoned. Here begins an investigation into the functioning of the largest public sector undertaking in the country.



Two major train accidents recently in railway minister Mamata Banerjee's own land have shaken the faith of many undertaking train journeys. On July 19, 63 people were killed as the train collided at Sainthia in West Bengal. On May 18, Jhaneswar Express derailed at Midnapore resulting in the death of 148 travelers. In January, 10 people were killed when trains collided due to bad weather in UP.These are some of the accidents that happened in the country this year. Preliminary reports suggest that the reason behind all these were human error. But if one digs deep into the history of railways, they will get a clear understanding that the poor employees are not to blamed.

The railways are functioning across 64,099 km rail line. Out of this, only 18,000 kms are doubled. As per `Vision 2020' presented by Mamata in the parliament, by the year 2020, 30,000 km would be doubled and she also hoped to reduce accidents within 10 years.

During 2001-02, there were 415 accidents and it has been reduced to 177 during 2008-09 period. In 2004-05, rail traffic was blocked for 1692 hours due to accidents but in 2007-08 it had increased to 4381 hours. Though the railways claim fewer accidents, the country stands first in accidents. There are strict rules that only 80% of the maximum capacity of railway lines must be used. But that is above 80% in 220 sections, including Shornur-Mangalore, Delhi-Howrah, Mumbai-Howrah, Delhi-Mumbai, Howrah-Chennai, Mumbai-Chennai. In 145 sections it reached upto 120%. With the rail capacity going above 100%, disaster is imminent . During such circumstances a small mistake from the loco pilot or guard may create a major disaster.

In foreign countries, trains are being regulated by advance signaling technology. To prevent train collisions, Anti-Collision Devices have been installed. But here the decade-old system formulated by the British in 1851 still continues. In the post-accident reports, the railway safety commissioner and the judicial commission had recommended major changes. But months after the accidents, the railways are not giving importance to it and are trying to pass on the buck to the loco pilots, guards or station masters. Though the investigative report vouches for changes in the service rules, enabling an employee for faultless work, the railways have adopted a deaf ear to all these.

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