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Railways must be prepared to meet passenger emergencies

The tragic death of a passenger caught between the platform and the railway coach at the Nizamuddin Railway station, exposes the lack of preparedness on the part of the railways to deal with such accidents.

delhi Updated: Nov 19, 2011 22:49 IST
Pushpa Girimaji

The tragic death of a passenger caught between the platform and the railway coach at the Nizamuddin Railway station, exposes the lack of preparedness on the part of the railways to deal with such accidents.

The railways have been quick to blame the passenger for trying to board a moving train. Certainly, such an act is fraught with danger and this one careless act on the part of the passenger eventually took away his life. But how can one let the railways off the hook for the shoddy rescue operation?

From what one can glean from the detailed newspaper reports of the tragedy, no doctor was called during the hour-long operation to pull him out, so as to keep a tab on his vital parameters and ensure that he remained stable and also reduce his pain and suffering through medication.

Even after he was pulled out, there was no doctor by his side. Don't railway officials know that in situations such as these, every minute counts? Given the injuries suffered by him, it was horrifying to see him being carried on a dirty railway trolley. And then, he was taken to the hospital in a police vehicle, which in no way can be a substitute for a well-equipped ambulance with trained para-medics and life saving equipment.

The bureaucratic apathy was also apparent in the statement of a railway official who said that the contract for the ambulance available round-the clock had expired on November 15 and as per the new contract, the ambulance would arrive on November 21! So what happens to medical emergencies in the intervening period? In the first place, why can't a replacement arrive on November 15?

In June this year, the Northern Railway had announced the availability of CATS ambulance on call, besides ambulance service from the railway hospital, for any emergencies at railway stations. What happened to these ambulances? Were they not called or were they not available? Why weren't doctors called from the railway hospital? Or the trauma centre?

How is it that the railway station does not have a decent stretcher? These are all questions to which one needs answers.

At least now, the railways need to come up with a detailed contingency plan for tackling accidents and medical emergencies at railway stations, so as to provide timely medical attention to the victims.

Given the way commuters rush to get into unreserved compartments, anybody could get injured. Or get trapped between the train and the platform.

Considering the large number of passengers who visit the railway stations everyday, there could be different kinds of situations requiring urgent medical aid. Railways must always be in a state of preparedness to deal with them. The service provider also needs to closely examine all aspects of platform safety. Besides critically examining, from a safety point of view, the gap between a rail coach and the platform, the railways also need to highlight the edge of the platform with a luminous coloured strip.

Bhanumati Shekhar: Can the family of Bhagwan Porwal hold the railways culpable in this case? Or will the blame for his death rest entirely on him, for trying to catch a moving train?

Answer: The railways will certainly highlight the carelessness on the part of the passenger. But then, one can also make out a case of negligence on the part of the railways in the way they handled the entire rescue.

In December last, a young man in New York had similarly got wedged between the extendable platform and the subway car at the Union Square station. He survived and is now suing the service provider for $15 million in damages. It will be interesting to see how this case goes.