On June 2, a horrific train accident occurred in Odisha’s Balasore, involving the Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express, the Shalimar-Chennai Central Coromandel Express and a goods train, which has claimed about 288 lives and left about 900 people injured.
A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been moved before the Supreme Court, seeking a high-level probe, headed by a retired Supreme Court judge, into the incident. The PIL also seeks a review of the current risk and safety parameters in the railway system to suggest systematic safety modifications for strengthening the railway safety mechanism. Furthermore, the PIL seeks that the Automatic Train Protection (ATP) system called Kavach Protection System is implemented in the railways with immediate effect.
The PIL submits that Kavach was still not implemented on the route and that it is still in the process of installing across the network. “On 23 March 2022, the Ministry of Railways announced a significant step towards enhancing the safety of train operations in India with the development of the indigenous Automatic Train Protection (ATP) System called Kavach,” the PIL said.
The PIL submits that there was an absolute necessity to install the Kavach protection system at the earliest “without which no train movement should have been continued.” The PIL also informs about the deadliest train accidents in India and its death toll.
The PIL is filed on grounds of lack of action by authorities to be a violation of Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Furthermore, the PIL submits that train accidents are havoc in nature as a single accident is responsible for claiming hundreds of lives and leaving several hundred and thousands wounded or disabled.
Furthermore, the PIL seeks a high-level probe, headed by a retired Supreme Court judge, alleging that the past probes under the authorities have had no substantive or conclusive report detecting the root causation of the issue.
What’s the ‘Kavach’ Safety System?
‘Kavach’ is an indigenously developed automatic train protection system designed to stop a train automatically if it notices another train on the same track within a set distance. Trains equipped with ‘Kavach’ are also designed to come to a complete stop on their own if the digital system detects any manual fault, such as “jumping” a red signal or any other malfunction. When a train passes a stop signal, it is known as a signal passed at danger (SPAD).
If the loco pilot fails to use the brakes, Kavach will do so automatically to manage the train’s speed. It enables the loco pilot to operate the train under adverse conditions, such as dense fog.
‘Kavach’ was envisioned as a part of the Modi government’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat policy. It was designed and developed by Union Railway Ministry’s Research Design & Standards Organisation (RDSO), in partnership with other Indian firms – Medha Servo Drives Pvt Ltd, HBL Power Systems Ltd, and Kernex Microsystems. This system was successfully tested and deployed last year by Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw.
‘Kavach’, which is approved for speeds up to 160 kmph, is also known as Train Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) and Automatic Train Protection System (ATPS).
The Union Railways Ministry said in a statement, “Kavach is one of the cheapest, Safety Integrity Level 4 (SIL-4) certified technologies with the probability of error is 1 in 10,000 years. Also, it opens avenues of export of this indigenous technology for Railways.”
Now according to the official statement, this technology might have prevented the tragedy. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the site in Odisha’s Balasore and inspected the rescue operation. He said, “It’s a painful incident. The government will not be able to bring them back, who lost their lives [in the accident], but the government is with their kin in this grief. This incident is very serious for the government. The government will leave no stone unturned for the treatment of those injured. Instructions have been given for every type of investigation, and whoever is found guilty will not be spared.”