At a time when the Cabinet colleagues of Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu are busy spelling out achievements of their ministries, Prabhu has another major task to perform- ensuring greater safety for rail passengers.
Shaken by the increasing train mishaps during his tenure, the minister has directed his officials to travel in all overnight express/mail trains to find out lapses in rail safety mechanism in each train for the next 10 days starting from Friday. The minister has also decided to set up a committee, which would be headed by former CAG Vinod Rai, to help in revamping the safety mechanism and systemic improvements needed to make rail travel less hazardous.
According to a senior Railways official, personnel ranging from junior to senior subordinate level have been told to travel in trains and keep their eye on all aspects of the safety operational mechanism such as signalling, security in bogies, etc. This is in addition to the existing schedule and inspection at various levels.
“The designated officials would travel in the engine compartment to identify security lacunae in train operations. The concerned officials have also been directed to submit a report on their observations which would be scrutinized by independent auditors,” the official said.
As Railways have over 16 lakh employees, monitoring passengers’ safety standards in over 1,000 overnight trains would not be an issue for the ministry.
After a series of meetings over scaling up passengers safety, it has been decided that all railway installations would be inspected over the next one week to identify and rectify the shortcomings and report of this exercise with actionable points would be sent to the Railway Board within a stipulated time.
To improve safety in trains, Prabhu has also roped in experts from Japan and Korea to visit India and recommend suitable technological solutions. A cooperation agreement was signed between the Railway Technological Research Institute of Japan (RTRI) and Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) and with Korean Rail Research Institute at the behest of the Railway Minister for cooperation in the field of rail safety.
Surprisingly, the minister sprung into action only after the number of train accidents in 2016 reached 13 on Thursday, including the worst accident in the last six months which took place in November near Kanpur. According to Ministry data, Railways witnessed 39 train mishaps in the last three years from 2014 to 2016.
Despite tall claims on implementing the best available safety measures to avoid such mishaps, about 450 people have been killed in different rail accidents in the last three years and above 800 injured.
The largest number of casualties was recorded when the Indore Patna Express derailed in UP in November, killing 140 people and injuring over 180.
The year 2016, which could have been a good year for Prabhu for his major reformist initiatives, proved to be the worst. Till Thursday, the Railways has witnessed 13 train accidents in 2016 followed by 10 in the year 2015 and seven in the year 2014.
- Railways witnessed 30 train mishaps in the last three years from 2014 to 2016 with 450 fatalities and over 800 sustaining injuries
- In year 2016, Railways witnessed 13 train accidents followed by 10 in year 2015 and seven in year 2014
- Year 2016, witnessed worst ever train accident in the last six years in which about 150 passengers were killed and over 180 were injured when when 14 coaches of Patna-Indore Express derailed during the early hours in Kanpur Dehat district on November 20
- The year 2015 also witnessed a major accident in which 58 passengers were killed and 150 injured when Dehradun-Varanasi Janta Express derailed in Uttar Pradesh’s Rae Bareli on March 20
- Similarly, 2014 witnessed two major back to back accidents on May 4 and May 26 in which 45 passengers were killed and over 160 injured