A harsh reminder
Even as one of the most spectacular swearing-in ceremonies unfolded in the heart of the national capital, over 40 innocents lost their lives in an unfortunate train accident in Uttar Pradesh. Monday morning euphoria that India woke up to was dented when reports of Gorakhdham Express colliding into a freight train at Cherub station came about. The accident in which hundreds were injured has once again sounded the warning signals on how poorly maintained the Indian transport system continues to be. The railways, which is often considered India’s lifeline and is the longest network of surface transport in the world, still continues to accrue more tragedies to its heinous tally of one of the highest rate of train accidents ever. Ground reports suggest that signal error caused the collision which led to derailment of several compartments, indicating that a lot is required to be before the bullet trains, envisioned by our new prime minister, become a reality. Since twenty-first-century technology cannot run on crumbling twentieth-century bureaucracy, a massive overhaul of the transport sector, particularly railways, needs to be immediately undertaken. Under the former UPA regime, the railway ministry was treated like a shuttlecock thrown from court to court of warring politicians, who metamorphosed from being whimsical to being corrupt. One former rail minister, Pawan Bansal, was even allegedly involved in the note-for-post scam, and the outgoing leader Mallikarjun Kharge was busy doing damage control. Modi cabinet’s Nitin Gadkari, who inherits the cluster of transport portfolios, therefore has a mammoth task ahead in reviving and reinvigorating the flagging railways, so that accidents like Monday’s can be avoided in future.