The train accident involving the Chennai-bound Tamil Nadu Express which claimed 32 lives has affected me deeply because as a student, I travelled regularly by the train — every six months between Delhi and Chennai. Train accidents, pilgrim deaths in Kerala and Amarnath, instances of buses rolling off the roads and myriad air accidents highlight the casual attitude with which we, as a government and people, take life for granted. On the one hand, safety measures are out of place and, on the other, safety awareness is abysmally low among people. How many of us know what to do in cases of emergency?
As a senior citizen with nearly six decades of travel experience on the Indian Railways, especially the Chennai-Delhi sector, I endorse the views expressed in the editorial “Waitlisting safety” (July 31). With the gradual withdrawal of wooden bogies in the 1950s, we were led to believe that passenger cars would be fabricated with more and more of fire resistant material, including seat cushions and fabric. Obviously, substandard material is finding place increasingly. Otherwise a non-AC bogie cannot become so highly flammable. I am sure the Railways have fire alarm devices. Whatever happened to them? As for maintenance, the less said the better. Gone are the sparkling rakes of the 1950s and 1960s when the Madras-based railway region could take pride in technical excellence, cleanliness and safety. I still recollect the dedication of a turbaned station superintendent at Madras Central seeing off or receiving the Grand Trunk Express.
The Railway Ministry seems to have concentrated on profits, pushing safety aspects to the back seat and sacrificing passenger interests. It is disappointing that the Railways paid scant attention to fire and electrical safety in three fire accidents in the last two years. While chanting the development mantra, the Railways should take care not to compromise safety.
C.P. Velayudhan Nair,
Monday’s accident was undoubtedly one of the worst train accidents in recent times. Let us stop the blame game and focus on safety measures so that these accidents can be avoided in future. The Railways should allocate sufficient funds for passenger safety and learn from other countries, if necessary.
Although upgrading safety on trains may be time consuming and costly, it should be done considering the priceless lives being lost in accidents. The Railway Minister’s declaration that nothing is being ruled out is a ploy to divert people’s attention from the dismal performance of the Railways. Only a thorough probe by an agency other than the Railways can establish the truth beyond doubt.
Every time a serious accident occurs, the Railway Ministry announces a probe. But safety hardly seems to improve. Considering the risk posed to the lives of thousands of passengers who rely on the Railways for transport, the department must take steps necessary to enhance safety. It may be expensive but it may be worth adopting the security policies of the aviation sector.
Dinesh Trivedi had a vision for the Railways. He wanted to raise additional funds for modernisation, which would have ultimately resulted in better safety. But unfortunately he became a victim of petty politics. The Railways are just like Air India, lacking funds and becoming a burden on an already over-burdened Centre. Mukul Roy does not seem to have learned anything from the rail accidents that have taken place during his regime. All we get to hear are probe committees and monetary compensation for the affected.