Over the last ten days India has witnessed three train accidents. As the latest accident unfolded in the early hours today near Maharashtra’s Asangaon it is time that the nation contemplated upon its priorities and concerns. The article looks at the Indian paradox and what it means for the ordinary citizens of the country.
Kabir | The New Leam
As the tragic news of six coaches of the Nagpur- Mumbai Duronto Express being derailed early in the morning today near Maharshtra’s Asangaon enters our consciousness we are immediately taken aback by the fact that this is the third derailment incident over the last 10 days in the country. The memories of the other two trail mishaps were still fresh in the mind when this new case turned up. On August 19, fourteen coaches of the Utkal Express jumped off the tracks and one of them even crashed into a house that was near the tracks near Muzaffarnagar district. This led to the deaths of over 23 people and injured over 60 others. Similarly, on August 25, six coaches of an Andheri bound local train got derailed and led to injuries of over six passengers.
India is a geographically vast country and one where the population density is immense. Under these circumstances it is but natural that a large section of the Indian population travels by train and uses it as the lifeline of intra-national connectivity. This means that the Indian Railways the biggest transportation provider in the country that serves about 2.3 crore passengers on any given date. This then implies that for ordinary people in the country who travel to remote corners and have no economic strength to afford air transport the railways are a constant companion for both short and long distances.
It is ironic that given the way that we are dependent on railways in such a huge manner we are still as a nation so unprofessional when it comes to ensuring rail safety and security. Train accidents over the last ten days have only strengthened the case more but frequently we hear cases of delayed trains, robbery within coaches, violence and lynching on moving coaches, degraded quality of food and hygiene and so on and so forth. It is alarming how we have not been able to create a system that is conducive to the needs of the time or that ensures that passengers and commuters have a safe and desirable travel experience.
This appears all the more absurd when one comes to know of the fact that on September 14 the Prime Minister of the country along with his Japanese counterpart will lay the foundation stone for India’s first bullet train project at the athletics ground near Sabarmati Railway Station. It is important for us to know that India would be spending an astronomical sum of money over building just one 650 Kilometres long railway track for the bullet train when a mere 40,000 crore is required to upgrade the security system of the entire Indian Railways.
What stops the government from taking steps in the right direction? It is important to know that as many as 1,25,752 safety department posts were vacant in the railways. The growing rate of train mishaps in the country should be a clarion call for India to begin doing work at the ground level before dreaming unrealistically big. It is indeed time for the Indian state to wake up and realise that if it prides in its ability to send 104 Satellites to space this year it must be equally ashamed of its lack of concern for upgrading and ensuring railways safety for its people.
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