'There is no money to run the Railways. It's going the Air India way'
Nine deaths in Wednesday's Bandra-Dehradun Express fire tragedy once again exposed the kind of mess that the public transport system is in.
Former Railway minister Dinesh Trivedi spoke to rediff.com’s Vicky Nanjappa about why the Railways is today on the brink of collapse.
"There are various factors which have contributed to an absolutely-unsafe Railways. The railway portfolio has become a political tool and has very often been given as a bribe to the allies.
Further, there are also instances where the ministry is given to senior leaders when they are unable to become chief ministers of a state. The Railways has become a victim of dirty politics and has been treated as a personal property.
The point I am making here is that the portfolio should be with someone who understands the Railways and also one who cares. If political parties play dirty politics with the Railways then it is clear that they have no feelings for the people.
Today when I look at the Railways there is no concept of safety and worse there is no money to run the Railways. It is going the Air India way. The biggest worry is that there is a great deal of demoralisation that has set in among the employees.
The Railways clearly faces a huge loss on a daily basis and this has led to poor payment of salaries to the railways employees. It is very obvious that these people will get demoralised. Moreover, the fact that there is no money in the Railways has also led to safety measures being compromised.
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'Is the worth of a human life just Rs 5 lakh?'
"There is a huge exodus in the Railways too. They are not getting the best of the engineers due to which technical difficulties are not addressed. Moreover, the younger lot are leaving the Railways in search of better jobs or have been asking for transfers into other departments.
When this is the mindset and state of the department it is obvious that it would not function properly. What I feel bad about is that this is such an important mode of transport for the common man and I see that there is a patriotic feeling that is lacking.
Those who die in rail accidents are always the poor and all they get is an ex gratia of Rs 5 lakh. Is the worth of a human life just Rs 5 lakh? Is it correct not to care about the safety and then equate the lives of people with money?
There are no easy solutions to the problem. But the most important way forward for those in power is to at least be concerned. There are many prescriptions that have been given, but what is the point if it is not followed."
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'The entire railway board is demoralised and collapsing'
"The entire railway board is demoralised and I am witnessing a collapse. We need to act fast and the need of the hour is to have a national railway policy irrespective of which party is in power. You need a robust system and also railways cannot be used a personal property.
The time has come to look beyond politics where the Railways is concerned. The ministry is still a lucrative one and often it feels that there is more demand for this portfolio than the post of prime minister. It helps those who work on the Railways in their respective constituencies.
There are politicians who come up and tell the Railways Minister to focus on their constituencies. It surprised me no end because each one appears to be bothered about their constituency. We need to look at it as a whole and start doing for others if this scenario has to improve.
If no action is taken then I am afraid that it would go from bad to worse in the coming years.”
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Photographs: Vikram Vetrivel/Wikimedia Commons