Last year 4,123 people were injured while 3,710 people lost their lives in rail mishaps. The irony of the situation is with all its resources, the Railways doesn't even have ambulances at all stations in Mumbai, to move a railway accident victim to the nearest hospital in case of an emergency.
These startling facts were revealed in a public interest litigation filed by Samir Zaveri, a victim of railways' callousness who lost his legs in a rail accident in 2008, seeking medical facilities to accident victims in "Golden Hour" (within one hour of the accident).
Rapping the Railways, a division bench of justice DK Deshmukh and justice KK Tated of the Bombay high court asked the counsels for the Western Railway (WR) and Central Railway (CR) why can't the Railways make budgetary provisions for ambulances at all stations in Mumbai? “Why can’t you buy your own ambulances to be parked at all stations. You could have made budgetary provisions in this budget.”
In the same breath, the court even said it will not pass any orders which will encourage “law breakers”, who cross railway tracks and meet with accidents. Petitioner’s advocates —counsel Jamshed Cama and advocate Dipesh Siroya —argued that on an average 10 people die daily in rail mishaps.
“Majority of them die as they do not get medical aid immediately. A person with a severed leg lies on the tracks or platform for about 45 minutes," argued Cama.
Suresh Kumar, advocate for the WR, read from affidavit of Dr Meena Shekhar, senior divisional medical officer with the WR, which admitted that they have total 11 ambulances, of which seven are departmental ambulances.
Kumar countered Cama's arguments saying that they have been moving accident victims in 5-10 minutes. However, he did not have any documents to substantiate his claim. Advocate for the CR, AN Samant, said there are only two ambulances on the central line.
The judges even suggested that the state government should co-ordinate with the Railways as the state already has existing fleet of ambulances and hospitals.
Cama said that calling for an ambulance and taking the victim to government hospital was never an issue, it was getting the victim to the nearest hospital in minimum possible time.
Cama suggested the Railways should introduce an insurance scheme for commuters. "If state and railways have proved incompetent, then there should be a private insurance, which is working at no profit no loss basis. We need proficiency."
The court asked the Western and the Central railways to file affidavits giving details of arrangements made by them for providing ambulances along with documents to substantiate their claims.
When Cama insisted that instead of railway accident, the court should even ask for steps taken by railways for those who are injured/killed while crossing tracks, justice Deshmukh said he would not pass any order which will encourage law breakers. “You know it (crossing railway tracks) is wrong, still you do it. This is like giving slum dwellers houses. It will amount to encouraging (them). You know there is railway bridge, you want to avoid using it," said justice Deshmukh.