Soon, a special force to handle rail disasters
The recent spate of accidents and rail mishaps has made the Indian Railways think over constituting a dedicated task-force on the lines of specialised agencies like the National Investigating Agency (NIA), Bomb Disposal Squad, etc. A series of train accidents in which about 900 people have died and over 1,500 injured have made Railway authorities think of such a force.
Given that the Railways Act, 1989 has empowered the Commission of Railway Safety (CRS) to handle safety issues of Indian Railways, the formation of a dedicated task force for such a purpose was the major challenge that officials faced at the start of the talk.
However, according to sources, the ministry started working in this direction as per the Section 114 (2) of Railways Act, 1989 as it empowers the ministry to initiate an inquiry if for any reason the CRS is not able to do so after the occurrence of an accident.
"We have started the process and it will take time to finalise all legal formalities. A committee would be formed soon to coordinate with multiples agencies involved in providing safety to railways," the sources said, adding that the task force would have officials from railways only and not from any private agencies.
"Officials who have worked in the railway safety division for at least seven years would be considered for selection. The ministry has got to know about an institute in the United Kingdom that imparts training in railways safety," the sources said.
Notably, on the lines of airlines, the railways has also installed black boxes in some of the south-bound trains as a pilot project to keep a record of drivers' conversation with other officials.
"There are special teams to handle situations of natural calamities, disasters, but the national transporter has no such mechanism in place. Every time, a rail mishap happens, the railways come up with reasons like cracks in the track, signalling failure, loco pilot's ignorance, etc.
Despite claims of implementing best available safety measures to avoid such mishaps, the Railways have witnessed over 30 train mishaps from 2014 to 2016. The year 2016, which could have been a good year for Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu, proved to be the worst as the Railways has witnessed 12 train accidents in 2016, followed by 10 in the year 2015 and seven in the year 2014.
Earlier, shaken by increasing train accidents during his tenure, the minister had directed his officials to travel in all overnight express/mail trains to find out the lapses in rail safety mechanism. The ministry had formed a committee, headed by former CAG Vinod Rai, to help in revamping safety mechanism and systematic improvements needed to make rail travel less hazardous.