Tuesday, September 21, 2010

In 15 months of Mamata tenure, 270 railway deaths
Mahendra Kumar Singh, TNN, Sep 21, 2010, 02.25am IST

NEW DELHI: At a time when railways is trying for an image makeover, Monday's train accident near Guna in Madhya Pradesh, which killed 23 and injured 30 passengers, is set to dent the track record of rail minister Mamata Banerjee, who has often been accused of being an " absentee minister".

According to preliminary findings, the driver of the goods trains ignored the signal and rammed into a stationary Indore-Gwalior Intercity Express at Badarwas station. The spurt in accidents will certainly turn the political heat on Mamata, who faces assembly polls in her home state, West Bengal, next year.

In over 15 months since Banerjee took over as minister, around 270 travellers have been killed in more than a dozen major train accidents, which have mostly been caused due to failure of railway employees that led to head-on or rear-on collisions. Trinamool Congress chief has been accused of being absent from Delhi, and focusing more on the Bengal elections.

The spate of accidents has also put a question mark on her promise to improve railways' safety record.

Typically, Mamata's approach to the accidents has been to hurriedly announce compensation for victims and their next of kin, institute inquiries and direct senior officials from Delhi to rush to the sites, giving enough ammunition to the Opposition to highlight her failure to prevent such incidents.

Besides, questions are being raised about various pending vital decisions and appointments to heighten rail safety. While railways is trying hard to fill around 89,000 safety-related vacancies, the arrest of the chairman of railway recruitment board ( RRB) Mumbai has not only embarrassed the state transporter but also derailed the entire process.

Railways is yet to come up with a timeline for installation of the anti-collision device, even though the decision was taken after the Saithia tragedy. CAG had also pointed out to railways about meeting its own target that was set under the corporate safety plan.

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