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Bodies pile up as railway safety proposals go unheeded

delhi Updated: Jul 12, 2011 01:52 IST
Srinand Jha
Srinand Jha
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Even as the body count from rail accidents mounts — the Kalka Mail accident toll climbed to 67 on Monday — safety recommendations and suggestions from half-a-dozen commissions set up by the railways are gathering dust.

Six panels in the last 15 years have been formed to try and improve the railways’ abysmal accident record.
But some of them are yet to even submit reports, like the Justice Sagir Ahmed commission. It was set up in 2001
and report is still pending, according to the website of the commissioner of railway safety (CRS).

Another commission, under Justice GC Garg, submitted its report in 2004. Its recommendations are still being looked into, the website says.

But safety is not a casualty of just commissions and panels. In 2003, the railways brought out a corporate safety plan (2003-2013) — setting targets for ensuring passenger safety.

The plan’s recommendations for preventing train collisions and miscellaneous accidents are yet to be achieved.
In 2002, a disaster management committee was set up and subsequently, claimed to have implemented 94 of the total 111 recommendations.

Bodies pile up as safety proposals go unheeded. Surprisingly five years later, the railways set up a disaster management review committee and rejected 67 of the 108 recommendations.

All accidents involving loss of lives of 10 persons or above are inquired into by CRS.

In 2003, a Rs 17,000 crore special railway safety fund (SRSF) was sanctioned, which was spent over the following seven years. However, the parliamentary standing committee on railways found serious shortfalls in the SRSF targets in 2008.

Shortfalls continue in the targets set for bridge construction, in signaling and telecommunication works and track circuiting works.

Approximately 13,000 km of tracks and signals at 2,359 railway stations were identified in 2009 as being "over-age". Railway ministry claims to have improved on that, though no figures were provided. Trains are not installed with a comprehensive smoke and fire detection system matching international standards.

Besides, safety at 16,600 manned and 18,200 unmanned level crossings continues to cause concern for the right reasons: Majority of accidents have been happening at the level crossings.

In 2009-10, the CRS inquired into 23 accidents and did not find one Class 1 or Class 2 officer guilty of a safety breach. In fact since 1947, not a single Class 1 or Class 2 officer has been booked for a safety breach.

The only occasion that safety committee recommendations have been sought to be fully implemented were the suggestions made by the Justice HR Khanna committee.

Of the 278 recommendations of the Khanna committee, the railways claims to have implemented 236 recommendations fully and partially, while 42 suggestions were rejected.