The Railway Board’s director of safety Ashish Merhotra, while replying to an RTI query said, “Only consequential accidents involving loss of life or grievous injury or loss of property worth Rs2 crore or interruption to through traffic above the threshold value are reportable to the board”
Although it would be hard to remember; till September, Indian Railways has suffered 61 ‘major’ accidents, an RTI query has revealed. But the numbers have gone down steadily with time.
However, the Railway Board doesn’t maintain information separately for the performance under every minister. RTI activist Subhas Chandra Agrawal’s application got the following response from the Railway Board’s director of safety Ashish Merhotra: “Data of all major and minor accidents are not maintained. Only consequential accidents involving loss of life or grievous injury or loss of property worth Rs2 crore or interruption to through traffic above the threshold value are reportable to the board. Details regarding consequential train accidents are not maintained separately for tenure of each minister.”
This year, till September, there have been five cases of collisions, 28 derailments, 26 level crossing accidents, and two instances of fire. Last year, it totalled to 141 accidents, the year before that, it was 165.
On the positive side, however, the number of accidents seems to have come down over the years. In 1960-61 there were 2,131 accidents, including 1,415 derailments and 405 fires in trains. By 1970-71, the number had more than halved to 840. At the turn of the century, there were 473 accidents, and it dropped further.
Information on train accidents before 1960 is not available though. When Lal Bahadur Shastri was serving as the railway minister, prior to becoming prime minister, he had resigned in 1956 when a railway accident in Madhunagar claimed 112 lives. Though his resignation was not accepted by Jawaharlal Nehru, three months later he put down his papers following another accident in Ariyalur in Tamil Nadu that saw 144 deaths.
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