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Rediff.com  » News » 'Real tragedy is the attitude of railways to people'

'Real tragedy is the attitude of railways to people'

October 20, 2018 15:19 IST

'The accident happened because the railway track was at the same level as the ground so the people walked over it.'

IMAGE: Friends and families rushed to the accident site to look for their near and dear ones. Photograph: PTI Photo

One more tragic train accident and, this time, more than 60 people lost their lives in Amritsar on Friday, October 19, night when a train mowed down people gathered on the tracks to watch Ravan Dahan.

"If you look at the National Highway, why is it that you have a raised road or flyover where there is a town? They do not want people crossing the national highway when vehicles come at a very high speed. The same logic applies here too. Tracks have to be at a higher level," S Pushpavanam, secretary of the Consumer Protection Council, tells Rediff.com's Shobha Warrier.

The railways say it never gave permission for anyone to hold celebrations close to the tracks. People say they didn't hear the train coming as the fireworks was going on. Whose fault is it then?

It is a tragedy. But the real tragedy is the attitude of the railways towards the people. They don't care.

They say that people were standing on the track, but then, have you seen where the tracks were? They were on the same level as the ground.

Usually the railways tracks are at least 6 feet above the ground level where there are no level crossing gates.

In fact, it is not even a level crossing, but why was the track on the same level?

When the tracks are on the same level as the ground, people could walk across easily.

This is the fault of the railways; they should have laid the tracks at a higher level.

Long ago, I had seen tracks at the road level without any fencing also. But then trains were instructed to go very slow in such places.

In Amritsar, another train had passed the area and the driver might have noticed people crowding in the area and the fire associated with Ravana vadham. So, he should have alerted the station master.

That way, the driver of this train should have known something was going on near the railway tracks.

 

Don't you feel it was carelessness on the part of the organisers and people to have celebrations close to the railway track?

Yes, of course. I don't know whether it was railway property or not, but they have no business to stand on the tracks or cross the tracks.

Contributory negligence was there on the part of the people too.

But if the track was at a different level, they would not have walked over. It is not easy to climb up.

Since it was on the same level, they might not even have been aware that they were crossing the track.

Between 2006 and 2014, 74 accidents have happened at manned level crossings. So, it shows that there is no guarantee that accidents will not happen in manned level crossings.

What the railways should have done is they should have installed flash and alarm signal which is there in all major countries.

Even in a small country like Taiwan, where at every two kilometres there is a level crossing gate they have fixed the flash and alarm signal so that even if people did not hear the alarm, they can see the flash.

Because it has sensors, it will start flashing when a train is even 200 metres away.

Here, people say because of the fireworks, they could not hear the train horn or see the light...

The headlight of the train should have been powerful. I don't know when the train comes with such a powerful headlight, how they missed it. We have no information on whether the train had a headlight or how powerful it was.

Normally DMUs do not have powerful headlights.

The railways should have had accident-prone area boards wherever there was tracks on the ground level.

What happened on Friday was totally different from what usually happens at level crossings... 

Yes, it was not a level crossing. The accident happened because the railway track was at the same level as the ground.

If you look at the National Highway, why is it that you have a raised road or flyover where there is a town? They do not want people crossing the national highway when vehicles come at a very high speed.

The same logic applies here too. Tracks have to be at a higher level.

Though at most of the places, it is at a higher level, I do not know why it was at the same level here.

Who should take the responsibility for this tragic accident?

Six days ago, five people died in a train accident and it was not even reported in the newspapers, as if five people dying in a rail accident was such a common thing.

Accidents keep happening and there is no accountability from anyone.

Why are the divisional manager or the DRM not suspended?

The H R Khanna committee on railway safety recommended that whenever an accident take place, the DRM and DM should take the responsibility.

But the railway bureaucrats have ensured their own safety than the safety of the passengers by putting the report under lock. They never implemented anything the report said.

The parliamentary standing committee says they returned 40 per cent of the money allotted for safety in the railways, unused. Because of the hue and cry, now they have converted it into a fund that can be carried over.

They should also reconstitute the Railway Board first.

Where have you seen a board where the members are all from the same organisation? You need representatives from various sectors on your board, not just railway employees.

In the case of Friday's accident, the railways had no business to keep the track on the same level as the ground and the station master should have warned the train.

And the contributory factor was the negligence of the people.

Shobha Warrier / Rediff.com