India seems to be leaving no stone unturned in realising its dream of high-speed bullet trains; the flip side of the story is- the government has turned a blind eye to the safety of the passengers. In 2012, a committee headed by nuclear scientist Anil Kakodkar had observed, “Railways is in no practice of independent safety regulation. The Railway Board was rule maker, operator and regulator, all wrapped in one.”
Former Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi had formed the committee. In his budget speech that year, Trivedi had mentioned that his emphasis was on “safety, safety, safety.” Trivedi had also declared there would be zero tolerance for accidents. As recommend by the Kakodkar Committee, he had proposed an independent railway safety authority as a statutory regulatory body and an additional member for safety and research on the Railway Board.
However, the Railways has kept this in cold storage.
In 2014, when Suresh Prabhu took charge, he had said that railways would examine all pending recommendations of the Kakodkar Committee by April. However, later on, MoS Manoj Sinha thought that the committee’s recommendation on an independent safety regulatory was “under examination.”
Keeping view on the accident records, the Kakodkar Committee also suggested keeping track on maintenance staff, mechanisation of activity in this high-risk area.
It asked for fencing the tracks in populated areas and eliminating all level crossings. The committee had found out that trains running at 80-100 kmph speed did not have specially designed coached for them. They lacked the casualty minimising anti-climbing features of German design coaches manufactured in Kapurthala and attached to Rajdhanis and Shatabdis.
About 43,000 such unsafe coaches were in use. Adding to this, the pivotal fasteners in new coaches at the Kapurthala factory were found to be substandard. Roller bearing failure due to overheating was another hazard in Rajdhani coaches.