Safe Journeys a far Cry
Tehelka|December 15 2016

Safety of rail travel can hardly be ensured when thousands of vacancies are not being filled, perhaps as a prelude to privatization.

Mudit Mathur

On 18 November, Prime Minister Narendra Modi ad-dressed through video conferencing a workshop of railway personnel attending the Rail Vikas Shivir (Rail Development Camp), motivating them to increase gati and pragati (speed and progress).

Unfortunately, within two days, the Patna-Indore Express met with a disastrous accident at Pukhrayan near Kanpur, taking a toll of more than 150 lives, leaving behind about 200 injured. Modi tweeted that he was “anguished beyond words,” as it was a major jolt to his innovative plans to run high speed and bullet trains.

In the wee hours of 20 November, 14 coaches of the ill-fated train were thrown off track. Passengers were jolted out of their sleep by a loud bang, following by violent rattling as the coaches jumped from the tracks and hit each other, killing more than 150 and injuring over 200 passengers in their sleep. Two coaches were smashed beyond recognition and several other coaches were hanging off the tracks. Personal luggage of the passengers — bags, clothes, water bottles — were scattered all over the place.

At the time of this major accident, most senior officers of the Indian Railways were busy in the three-day-long Rail Vikas Shivir at Surajkund near New Delhi, with a view to generating innovative and practical ideas across most critical areas of railway operations for substantial progress of this sector. It was claimed to be part of a unique idea that PM Modi conceived by involving the entire organisation at all levels in this mega exercise, right from the lowest gangman to Chairman, Railway Board.

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