Train Accident: No populist politics for nation building
Intro: The railway tracks in the country today need
immediate upgradation, which requires huge funds. Hike in the fare too has its own limitations. The railways needs some other measures also for revenue generation.
On June 22, Muri-Dhanbad passenger train (No. 53342) derailed near Bokaro due to a bend occurred in the track when the driver applied emergency brakes. Why a bend occurred in the track on application of the emergency brakes? Who is responsible for such a poor condition of the railway tracks—the 30 day old Modi government or 10 years UPA misrule?
The UPA government, following populist politics, repeatedly played with the safety of rail passengers. Despite severe resource crunch, it avoided revising rail fares overlooking the safety needs of the passengers. Not only this, it committed a blunder in 2008 when it merged the Special Safety Funds with the Development Fund turning a total blind eye to the safety aspect. With this Special Safety Fund, created during NDA government in 2003, old tracks were to be upgraded. But after 2008, this vital need was ignored.
In the last interim budget for 2014-15, UPA Rail Minister Mallikarjun Kharge made necessary provisions for fare hike, but postponed its announcement at the eleventh hour. The Railway Board wanted it to be announced on May 16, but the then Railway Minister Kharge did not allow it. Now when the new Minister for Railways Sadananda Gowda announced this fare hike, the Congress and its allies started hue and cry over it. In fact the Congress has no moral right to criticise Modi government for this hike.
Derailment of New Delhi-Dibrugarh Rajdhani Express at Chhapra (Bihar) in early hours of June 26 also calls for extra funds to be spent for ensuring rail-safety. Fact which we have to accept that the railway tracks in the country have damaged badly and they need immediate upgradation as well as modernisation. It requires huge funds which the railways do not have. A hike in the fare, as recent one, too has its own limitations. Therefore, the railways should consider some other measures for revenue generation.
p Travelling without ticket is like a cancer for Railways. Even in superfast and prestigious trains like Shatabadi and Rajdhani, it is a common phenomenon taking place in collusion with the railway staff. Anyone can find illegal passengers in pantry cars, RMS coaches or even in other coaches. It causes huge loss to the Railways. To recover, the railways pass it on to the honest passengers through fare hike. It is a punishment to the honest passengers. To check it, the Railways need to strictly implemented the provisions like imposition of fine or six months imprisonment or both.
p Arrangements at ticket windows too must be made full proof, as mostly there are long queues for tickets at the windows. It is common phenomenon all over the country. This also leads to breeding of dalas in the system.
p A certain number of passengers on waiting lists can be accommodated by adding more coaches in the train.
p There is a wide gap between railways and the road transport in terms of goods traffic. In spite of high freight and risk, business community prefers road transport. The railways should try to tap this segment on priority basis treating the road transport as its partner not competitor.
p Bullet train can be a dream project. India needs to focus more at high speed trains. Today the average speed at most of the routes is about 40 km per hour. At single tracks it is hardly 25 to 30 km per hour. The large network of railway lines still has single tracks. Even three main cantonments in northern India—Chandigarh, Dehradun and Meerut are linked with single line only. Why nobody tries to calculate the loss of time and fuel due to it is beyond one’s understanding.
-Dr Ravindra Agrawal(The writer is a senior journalist and can be contacted at [email protected])