Another railway accident within a week of a bomb blast having gone off at the Chennai Central railway station (“18 dead as train derails in Raigad,” May 5). What is wrong with our railways? Whatever the reasons may be — either an act of terror, human error or failure of machinery — it is the ordinary passenger who is at the receiving end. Promises of introducing high- speed bullet train services hold no water when we are unable to run passenger and goods train services safely even for a week.
The Indian Railways is one of the world’s largest rail networks with 64,460 route kilometres crossing plains, deserts, forests, rivers and mountains. Granted that the whole system cannot be watched in detail, and it is a humanly impossible task with the available railway police force. However, it is the responsibility of the State and Central governments to look into the issue of track safety. Here are some suggestions. Unemployed youth who live within the respective railway zone areas, can be employed for every 10-km stretch as a “tract monitor” to detect faults on that stretch. Such people can be paid by levying a cess of Re.1 on every ticket, called safety fee. Railway coaches and wagons need constant watching and a similar strategy can be used. Unemployed graduates can be employed on contract basis for this task. They can also look into issues of cleanliness and theft. At major junctions, all luggage must be screened.