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Thursday, December 22, 2005

the derailed railways

The Indian Railways are one of the most popular means of mass communication. It still caters to the high class as well as the poor. Over the years it has introduced several improvements in its working, today you can even book tickets over the net in selected cities. But, accidents continue to plague it. A report indicates that Nearly 40 major accidents have occurred in the last 15 years on the 63,000-km route network of Indian Railways, the world's largest under a single management that operates over 11,000 trains every day.

On 3rd February, A train smashed into a tractor carrying wedding guests at a crossing in western India on Thursday, killing at least 52 people and injuring 10 others, a railway official said. The accident occurred near Kanhan, a small town in Maharastra 490 miles northeast of Bombay, when a local train bound for the central Indian city of Nagpur collided with a tractor as it was crossing the tracks.

On 21st April, 17 people (including the driver of the Sabarmati Express and his assistant) were killed and over 127 injured (10 in critical condition) when the Ahmedabad bound passenger train from Varanasi, Train No. 9168 SABARMATI EXPRESS, collided with a stationary goods train (on the same track!) near Samlaya village in Vadodara district of Gujarat state at around 0310 Hrs (IST) on Thursday, 21 April 2005.

On 3rd October, Fifteen people were feared dead and over 50 seriously injured when the Bundelkhand Express went off the track and rammed into a railway signal cabin in Datia district, Madhya Pradesh at 8.10 am on Monday. The train was travelling from Varanasi to Gwalior.

But, worse than accidents are the cases of rape in moving trains - in August 2002, a young woman was raped on a suburban train near in Mumbai. It was reported that she was a handicapped woman and, even though there were half a dozen male passengers in that compartment none stepped in to stop it. Interestingly one of the passengers was a journalist. On 6th December this year, five people were arrested for alleged rape of a 20-year-old woman in the Mumbai-bound Pawan Express.The woman was raped between Nasik and Igatpuri stations. The latest is the one in the Pushpak Express in MP on 21st December 2005. In this connection it may be mentioned that there was a Manoj Bajpai – Raveena Tandon film ‘Jaago’ shown in one of the TV channels where a child was raped in a local train in Mumbai – in that case there also there were witnesses who were afraid to open their mouth for fear of repercussions.

The railway authorities are tying up with MNCs to introduce signaling equipment that can provide advance warning of unfit tracks – they need to also look into the safety of the traveling public. It seems when followers of political parties forcibly board the trains to attend party rallies, they create problems for the authorized travelers. The railway administration should provide separate trains for such persons – the cost could be borne by the parties. It is a national problem and needs to be resolved by whichever party is in charge of the Railway ministry.


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