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No-accountability regime promotes laxity

After Sunday's twin train accidents, focus has again shifted to this question: Why have train accidents been happening with such regularity? Srinand Jha reports.

delhi Updated: Jul 11, 2011 01:45 IST
Srinand Jha

After Sunday's twin train accidents, focus has again shifted to this question: Why have train accidents been happening with such regularity? The Kalka Mail and Guwahati-Puri Express derailments are the worst train mishaps this year.

The Railways theory (calculated in terms of per million route kilometre) is that train accidents in India are among the lowest in the world. But this theory ignores the fact that the actual number of people killed in train accidents in India is among the highest in the world.

“Human lives cannot be termed in terms of averages. A zero accident policy is just not there on the radar of the railways management,” admitted an official.

Unlike the West, India does not have an independent rail transport regulator, which promotes ‘no accountability’ regime. The Railways have never convicted a Class-I or Class-II officer for a safety breach.http://www.hindustantimes.com/images/HTPopups/050711/11_07_11-metro8.jpg

During past years, the loading capacity per wagon on goods trains was increased from 4825 tonne to 5200 tonne per train on the old type of wagons. Various committees and experts have said "overloading" has been damaging tracks - putting human lives at risk.

"Tracks have a certain life and it is possible that these are being damaged because of overloading," former chairman, Railway Board MS Rana said.

From 2003 to 2007, the Railways spent approximately R17,000 crore to ramp up safety measures. But, holes in terms of safety preparedness remain.

“Railways ministers have mostly used the Railways as a platform to further their political interests and structural reforms have not been actually undertaken,” said Vivek Khare, a railways expert.