Our second question is should travel through Railways be made mandatory for Indian politicians? This will certainly not be the bad idea as this will give them a chance to feel and understand the misery and pain of common Indian passengers go through every day in their Railway journeys. India has the biggest transport system but poorly managed.
Two train accidents including Utkal express within a week raises severe question about the safety network of the Indian Railways. Government’s own Think Tank, NITI Aayog says that from 2012 onwards, six out of every 10 rail accidents took place because of the railway staff’s mistake or negligence.
In the year ending 31 March 2017, 66 out of 104 rail accidents are attributable to the mistakes of railway staff which has been acknowledged by the Indian Railway data. In 2017, ending 3 months in June, 8 out of 11 accidents is because of the railway staff’s failure.
The accident taking place with Utkal Express killed 20 people and injuring 97 others in Uttar Pradesh.
The Ministry of Railway released data showing 450 railway accidents between 2013 and 2017. After NDA government came to power, the railway accidents under railway minister Suresh Prabhu have increased to 292 in 2014-15 from 152 in 2013-14. After a dip in the following year where the number of accidents was reduced to 122 (2015-16), the latest data again reflects a rise to 238. Despite so many accidents occurring with so many casualties, no eyebrows are raised and no apology from Prabhu. Prabhu, in fact, did not even mention any contingency plan to mitigate the risks associated with travelling in Indian trains. The oppositions are also largely mute with no protests or scrutiny of Prabhu.
The only prominent politician taking a jibe at the government is the BSP chief Mayawati who questioned the wisdom of spending billions on bullet train when funds are not enough to ensure safety to the passengers on regular trains.
The maintenance of Indian Railways is dismal to say the least. A white paper published by IR in 2015 states, “IR’s network has 1,14,907 km of total track length. Of this, 4,500 km of track should be renewed annually. However, due to financial constraints, the progress in track renewals is constantly coming down over the last six years. As on July 1, 2014, 5,300 km track length is due for renewal. The target for the current year is only 2,100 km. Arrears of track renewal are accumulating which will result in disproportionately high maintenance effort.”
There are lots of questions regarding the biggest transport system in India, with no one to answer. These questions were raised in Rajya Sabha that evoked replies, which are nothing but vague. Minister of State for railways, Rajen Gohain, stated that in 2016-17, 40 persons lost their lives and 20 accidents took place at unmanned level crossings. He just parroted the statistics instead of talking about government policies to deal with the situation.