“Safety is al­ways given a lip ser­vice”

Governance Now - - RAIL SECURITY -

What kind of safety mea­sures does the In­dian Rail­ways need?

Safety of rail­ways is linked with op­er­a­tions and main­te­nance. Safety is a byprod­uct of as­sets, rules and reg­u­la­tions, which are the three pil­lars and they have to be in close co­or­di­na­tion.

There have been two types of regimes across dif­fer­ent rail­way net­works glob­ally – zero death and zero ac­ci­dent. many coun­tries have had the zero death regime be­cause of a num­ber of fac­tors in­clud­ing bet­ter safety mea­sures. But they failed in pre­vent­ing ac­ci­dents de­spite hav­ing best in­fras­truc­ture. in­dia has failed mis­er­ably in im­ple­ment­ing both the regimes. How­ever, the records are im­prov­ing pro­gres­sively. dur­ing 1960-61, there used to be around 300 col­li­sions which have come down to four-five. In­dian rail­ways will have to pull up its sleeves for achiev­ing the zero death regime.

also, one needs to check how many times the rail­way min­is­ter con­vened safety meet­ings and in­ter­acted with the me­dia on safety of rail­ways, in the last three years. ear­lier, rail­way ministers had made it manda­tory to do field vis­its and ex­am­ine ac­tiv­i­ties at the grass root level. un­for­tu­nately, for the past three years, the top level of­fi­cials passed on this re­spon­si­bil­ity to sec­ond-rung of­fi­cials, which is not a good sign for the rail­ways and im­per­ils the safety of trav­ellers.

Are safety funds un­der the Rashtriya Rail San­rak­sha Kosh enough to re­vamp the rail­ways?

The Rashtriya Rail san­rak­sha kosh (RRSK) of ₹1 lakh crore should have been es­tab­lished at least five years back.

The rail­ways say that its as­sets are get­ting flogged but on other hand it avoids in­ject­ing enough funds into safety re­lated mea­sures. Punc­tu­al­ity meet­ings are be­ing con­vened by drms and Gm on a daily ba­sis but, un­for­tu­nately, same is not the case with safety. The meet­ings on safety hap­pen only when any ma­jor ac­ci­dent oc­curs that too be­cause of mount­ing pres­sure from the me­dia.

de­spite the reg­u­lar re­ports of as­set fail­ure, break­age of rail and other ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties, no con­crete mea­sures are be­ing un­der­taken for safety,

What should be done for rail­ways safety?

de­spite the rail­ways spend­ing money on safety there is no sig­nif­i­cant out­put. The rail­way board needs an ar­bi­tra­tor who does not al­low one-to-one con­ver­sa­tion. The role of the ar­bi­tra­tor needs to be played ei­ther by the CRB or some other se­nior of­fi­cial. Safety is al­ways given a lip ser­vice.

For­eign tech­nolo­gies have not helped the rail­ways; home-grown tech­nolo­gies have. Had the for­eign tech­nolo­gies been cus­tomised for in­dian con­di­tions, they might have proven good.

There should be more and rapid pro­duc­tion of Ger­man LHB coaches. none of the pas­sen­gers sus­tained in­juries in two re­cent de­rail­ments – Kaifiyat ex­press and nagpur-mum­bai du­ranto ex­press – be­cause of LHB coaches, which have more safety fea­tures.

The re­newal of rail which should have hap­pened at a cer­tain level has not kept pace with the cur­rent re­quire­ments. The de­tec­tion mech­a­nism for rail de­fects is faulty. Be­sides, ul­tra­sonic flaw de­tec­tion is be­ing done man­u­ally, not me­chan­i­cally. in some sec­tions the frac­ture de­ten­tion work has been given to pri­vate con­trac­tors which raises sus­pi­cion on their abil­ity. luck­ily, in­tro­duc­tion of new trains that used to be done as a pop­ulist mea­sure has been stopped of late. no new train should be in­tro­duced for the next three years.

ex­am­i­na­tions to re­cruit around 30,000 safety cat­e­gory staff and loco driv­ers have been con­ducted but there is un­due de­lay in declar­ing the re­sults. This has put more pres­sure on the ex­ist­ing lo­co­mo­tive pi­lots who are work­ing over­time.

Gang­men used to be sturdy peo­ple who would even lift the rail as it’s purely a man­ual job. now, youth hav­ing higher qual­i­fi­ca­tion are join­ing as gang­men which shows that they do not in­tend to do hard phys­i­cal work. The real (gang­men) cadre is get­ting de­pleted. At the ground level, rail­ways’ man­power has be­come weak and un­der-skilled.

What is your ob­ser­va­tion on the de­rail­ment near Khatauli?

In the Khatauli-utkal de­rail­ment, the ground staff al­legedly car­ried out main­te­nance with­out tak­ing safety pre­cau­tions. it shows that the in­dis­ci­pline has risen.

Let us as­sume the traf­fic block was not given but did it jus­tify not putting the red ban­ner flags? In emer­gency, a gang­man is au­tho­rised to put a red ban­ner. Has the board wo­ken up af­ter a se­ries of de­rail­ments, is the real ques­tion to be asked. The res­ig­na­tion of the CRB or the min­is­ter is not go­ing to solve the prob­lem.

The utkal de­rail­ment is a case of gross ne­glect. The gov­ern­ment, for the last three years, has been hyp­ing on the fu­turic plans but, it seems, it’s least both­ered about the present. There is lit­tle fo­cus on the day-to-day op­er­a­tions and more on the vi­sion. The rail­ways is a dy­namic and ro­bust or­gan­i­sa­tion where ev­ery mo­ment hun­dreds of lives are at risk if safety is com­pro­mised.

most of the board mem­bers be­lieve in sav­ing their faces dur­ing a cri­sis. if this con­tin­ues, the Rail­ways will re­main as vul­ner­a­ble as it was al­ways.

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