Bullet trains are fine. But who will assure basic safety when we travel on India’s battered train tracks?

Posted on by Mayur Das
 
  

Sunday morning brought grim news to the breakfast table. At 3:10 AM, 14 coaches of the Indore-Patna Express derailed near Kanpur. Following the derailment, five bogies were terribly wrecked as they rammed into each other. The death toll is currently over 140, with more than 180 people badly injured. Railway employees and rescue workers worked for hours to move the bogies with cranes, while locals provided relief to the survivors. This is undoubtedly the biggest catastrophe in India in the recent years.

Indore-Patna

Derailed coaches of Indore-Patna Express

And what tug the heart are stories of survivors, who are still not able to come out of the shock. Abhay, a ten-year-old child lost his whole family to this tragedy. Ruby Gupta was travelling to her village for her wedding. She lost her bag filled with Rs 3 lakh for her marriage. But that’s not what perturbs her. She was not able to locate her father. The accident site is specked with wedding cards and blood-splattered bridal wear. The wedding season has intensified the morbidity of this mishap. For most, the air is filled with lamentations instead of cheerful wedding songs.

While India was still grappling with demonetisation issues, this disaster flared the anguish and pain of the people even further. And if one thinks of Rs 3.5 lakh as ex-gratia to the kin of the dead, it seems like a horrible joke?

Over 140 are reported dead, with more than 180 people badly injured in this accident

Over 140 are reported dead, with more than 180 people badly injured in this accident

While Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has been enjoying a lot of affection from the masses for his selfless work on improving the travel experience in Indian Railways, the accident has brought in the dark clouds of doubts over his performance. True to his job, the minister promptly travelled to ground zero to review the situation personally.

The railway minister can’t be held responsible for the mishap. But heads of others will roll. The government has already started an inquiry, and there have been murmurs how basic things like safety checks have taken a back seat in the attempt to revamp rail coaches.

There have been talks about bringing in bullet trains and world-class stations to India. But the tragic accident has made us realize that what we need is basic safety measures first.  The old and worn-off rail tracks in India need as much attention as futuristic bullet trains do. Media reports say there is a shortage of 1.3 lakh staff in the Indian Railways. We think it’s time we turn our gaze onto ourselves and assess how the common man’s life can be secured. Indian citizens need to be assured that they will be safe, wherever they travel.

Bullet train

Indian Railways transports over 8.4 Billion passengers annually

In the mean time, political vultures have smelt fresh meat. The blame game always holds the victims hostage. Some netizens are even contemplating conspiracy theories! The Prime Minister shared a tweet.

Sadly it was twisted into a mockery of the dead, where the Modi-bashers questioned: “Why did he not address the dead?” The message is clear for such people: Please high-five yourself really hard on your face for your ‘achievement’.

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