Why Indore-Patna Express accident was murder

Jagat Narayan Singh
Jagat Narayan SinghNov 20, 2016 | 17:02

Why Indore-Patna Express accident was murder

In Sunday's rail accident, at least 96 people were killed and over 100 injured when 14 coaches of the Indore-Patna Express derailed near Pukhrayan in Kanpur Dehat district. Rescue operations are under way since early morning and the death toll is expected to rise.

Survivors narrate horror stories and recount miraculous escape. The nature and timing of the accident shows it was caused by a track fracture, though the exact reason would be known only after an inquiry.


Union rail minister Suresh Prabhu, while presenting the 2016-17 rail budget, had insisted: "The railways' safety record has become better. This year, 20 per cent fewer accidents were reported than last year but a lot still needs to be done." He had also promised to commission 2,800km of new tracks in the next year.

The fact, however, remains that the Indian Railways, which serves 13 million passengers every day, still has a poor safety record, with thousands of people dying in accidents every year.

What the government has done in terms of new measures is:

- Apart from the regular safety norms, the network has taken steps through innovative use of technology and stepped up training to manpower to enhance safety standards.

- The constitution of a Rs 17,000-crore non-lapsable Special Railway Safety Fund (SRSF) to replace the arrears of ageing assets over the next six years has been a historical move in this direction.

- A number of distressed bridges, old tracks, signalling systems and other safety enhancement devices will be replaced during this period.

- Extensive field trials of the anti-collision device (ACD), indigenously developed by the Konkan Railway, are going on and, once deployed across the zonal railways, this innovative technology will help reduce accidents.


- The security of passengers is at present a shared responsibility of the Railway Protection Force (RPF) and the Government Reserve Police (GRP). Efforts are on to amend the Railway Act to give more powers to the RPF in ensuring security of passengers on trains and within railway premises. Deployment of women police has also been arranged for security and assistance of female passengers.

But all this has not been enough. Despite the promises made by the government to ensure safety of rail passengers, India has failed to do so. According to data compiled by the NCRB, between 2010 and 2014, the railway accident death count has varied between 24,000 and 27,000 every year.

The question is, why can't we avert frequent train accidents? (Photo: India Today)

The question is, why can't we avert frequent train accidents?

First let's look at the causes behind train accidents:

- The railways is carrying 15 times more people than its capacity, and overloading is damaging old tracks, for the repair of which investment is lacking.

- Indian trains are not equipped with proper safety and fire equipment.

- Lack of devices to automatically stop the train and anti-collision devices.

- As many as 18 of 21 accidents occur because of human error, fault of the driver and negligence of railway staff.


- Manual signalling system between stations is often at fault and must be replaced with automated ones.

- Unmanned crossings: 15,000 crossings out of 50,000 in India are unmanned.

Although Prabhu tweeted that an inquiry has been ordered into the latest accident and that strict action will be taken against those responsible, the question is who should be blamed for the accident that killed almost 100 people?

Will the ex-gratia announced and condolences by PM Narendra Modi, chief ministers and the rail ministry bring back the dead?

Last updated: November 20, 2016 | 17:05
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