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Cracks aplenty, safety forgotten

In a recent report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, it was found that authorities in South Western Railway flouted safety norms, thereby playing with the lives of millions of passengers. The Research Design and Standard Organisation (RDSO), the technical advisor to Railway Board and Zonal Railways, had pointed out several flaws on the broad gauge line between Kottur-Harihar in Karnataka. Despite the warning signs, railway authorities did not pay heed to these flaws and several cracks remained on the rail track.

The national auditor highlighted that a stable and strong formation is essential for the safety of track and safe running of trains. Unfortunately the mandatory ‘parameters’ were not followed. CAG officials suspect that financial scams could be behind these shortcomings and the matter might be subject to an investigation. The report was a clear marker of the compromises the authorities have made, leaving the life of its passengers at grave risk. Last month in a report on the Nizamuddin-Ernakulam Lakshadeep Mangala Express accident in 2013, where three passengers died, the commissioner of railway safety emphasised on the need for ultrasound broken rail detection system for early discovery of cracked tracks. Due to bureaucratic lag, however, such technology has not been forthcoming.

The central government’s recent decision to introduce 100 foreign direct investment in Indian Railways, does not solve the issue of faulty tracks. The CAG’s report, therefore, is another tale of how the current administration has put the cart before the horse.
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