The collision of Hampi Express with a goods train on Tuesday underscores the poor performance of the Railways on the safety front and the fact that its functioning is still far from transparent.
Both the CAG and the Parliamentary Standing Committee attached to the Railway Ministry have taken exception to the arbitrary functioning of the Ministry. The CAG has accused the Ministry of not being transparent and also pointed out that there has been little change in the status of the promises made during the last three years.
After a spate of accidents and collision induced by fog, the then Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal Chief Minister) had promised to put in place anti-collision devices (ACD). But the CAG in its latest report has pointed out their defects and also questioned the efficacy of the Train Protection Warning System (TPWS).
Railway Minister Mukul Roy has reiterated his resolve to implement the TPWS, though most of the zones which were required to install the equipment have done much in this direction. However, the pilot projects did not yield the desired results. The proposal was to install ACDs in all the broad gauge sections by 2012-13.
Mr. Roy debunked the Kakodkar committee report on enhancing safety aspects. The committee was set up by his predecessor Dinesh Trivedi who was forced to quit soon after presenting the Railway Budget in March because of his differences with his party chief.
The loco pilot driver of Hampi Express has been blamed for ignoring the red signal and ramming the train into a stationary goods train — it underscores the drawbacks afflicting the railways for three years now. There were nine incidents of collision in 2009-10, five in 2010-11, which increased to nine in 2011-12. The Railways have not been allocating necessary funds under the head of safety in its desperation to prevent the account books from slipping into the red.
Equally distressing is that during the past three years, the Railways have been found to be largely responsible for consequential accidents. Negligence of staff and failure of equipment accounted for 69 per cent of the accidents in 2009-10, 61 per cent in 2010-11 and 64 per cent in 2011-12.
Even in matters of compensation to families of accident victims, a parliamentary panel found fault with the Ministry's policy and pointed out that only 48 jobs were provided to bereaved families though 638 persons were killed during 2007-10. It also exposed the slow pace at which vacant posts were being filled by the Railways and feared that filling the 8,56,663 vacant Group ‘D' posts would take another four to five years.