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Public Interest Exclusive
Indian rail traveller at high risk?

With two accidents in just one month, Indian rail travellers are definitely at high risk. The parliament ought to get the Railway Budget discussed at length and passed in its original form with the total withdrawal of the rollback

Rail travellers in India are presently in the high risk category that no insurance company will possibly cover. The quick succession of accidents in just one month—Hampi Express and Dehra Dun Express—are the latest victims and there is nothing to rule out many more trains derailing or crashing into each other any time en route.

The present Trinamool Congress (TMC)—(read Didi-appointee) rail mantri is least concerned about what will happen to the Bharatiya aam janata, the millions of rail yatris travelling in the over a century old railway system, one of the biggest in the world. He’s only carrying out the diktats of the party boss’ one-point agenda of not to raise the fares, which means no improvements on safety and security.

The prime minister, who praised the well worked out realistic budget immediately after it was presented by the then railway minister Dinesh Trivedi, back-tracked fearing the withdrawal of support by the TMC and meekly favoured them by agreeing to the change the rail mantri who was under orders by his party chief to roll back and consequently jeopardized passenger safety.

Each of the members of parliament including the PM seems to ignore that they have sworn to carry out their duties without fear and favour! This is precisely where they have failed the Indian nation in their executing their constitutional duty. The massive accident with so many deaths and injuries bears a stark witness. 
Our railways constitute the third largest network in the world, spread over 64,000 km, running more than 12,000 passenger and 7,000 freight trains each day from as many as 7,083 stations by ferrying 23 million travellers and 2.65 million tonnes of freight.

Yet our politicians continue to playing ducks and drakes with the lives of millions of us travelling in this vast network either on work or holiday. The constantly occurring accidents are reported and nothing is heard thereafter of the enquiries that are routinely announced.

The Railway Budget 2012 proposed some modest increases in passenger fares, by mobilizing an incremental Rs5,000 crore, to reduce the financial pressure by seeking to bring down the sharply deteriorating operating ratio and generating resources for implementing vital safety measures, network expansion and modernization.

The five railway workers federations representing 1,362 million employees across the country in extending strong support to the increase, point out that it is absolutely necessary to ensure safe, secure and smooth journey for the Indian traveller and essential for financial stability and sustainability of the Indian Railways. Any roll back without a matching subsidy from the general exchequer pushes it on the brink of collapse says the letter from the federations to the prime minister. They had sought higher budgetary support from the finance ministry last year. Besides there is no opposition from passengers who only demand better services.

The TMC is the only party, a cantankerous coalition partner in the Union cabinet, at that, to so vociferously oppose the increase on the frivolous grounds that it runs contrary to the DNA of their party and simply non est!

These nasty antics evidence the lack of concern of the party supremo also known as Didi, of the tremendous harm their stubborn opposition can cause to the safety and stability of the entire Indian Railway system. It is sad that all her party members merely mouth the same reason without applying their minds, if at all have any brains, except for rebel MP and singer Kabir Suban who rightly supported the fare hike in the 2012 Rail Budget—“The fare hike was inevitable. The railway minister has not hiked the fare to fill his own pocket. Crucial issues like railway safety and passenger amenities are directly related to the fare hike.” The party chief has not challenged him—she is definitely on a very weak wicket more particularly after two accidents one in the south and the other in up north.

The railway ministry for long, after a spell of Lalu raj, has been held hostage by the Trinamool Party which insisted on it all along with the UPA-1 all the way to UP-2 in 2012 deliberately chose not hike the fares only to retain the self-perceived middle class vote bank that has caused enormous harm to the sustainability and safety elements and also resulted in loss of sympathy for the lack of standards.

The railway ministry was earlier held by another maverick Lalu Prasad Yadav who came out with harebrained concepts that each of them on have been proven to be misguided and wrong too. It did bring him a lot of kudos from the international B-schools which glorified him without proper scrutiny. We have heavily paid for his antics which ought to have been attended to all these years but even need rectification now before it is too late.

The parliament and the government ought to get the Railway Budget discussed at length de novo and passed in its original form with the total withdrawal of the rollback, restoring the status quo ante and not succumb to the pressures of the Trinamool, to say the least—GTH—Go to Hell!

It must be remembered that the members of parliament and ministers take oath to bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution and do right to all manner of people without fear or favour. The MPs across the board cannot be pushed around by narrow party diktats or so called political coalition compulsions—it tantamounts to violating their oath.  Passenger safety has to be paramount.

(Nagesh Kini is a chartered accountant turned activist.)



Nagesh Kini

5 years ago

Thanks Ananthji for your very valuable suggestion.
When there is a flight insurance for just Rs.10, rail passengers certainly won't mind paying double this for a safety cover.
When will this come about?
Will it before next month when we propose Mangalore-Chennai-Bengaluru-Hubli-Mumbai rail journeys?

anantha ramdas

5 years ago

Nagesh Kini's article on the state of railways and how the party nominee has to dance to the whims and fancies of the party chief, much against his own will and conscience makes a sad reading.

In the national interest, LIC must now offer a Rail Travel policy at a nominal price; it must cover the cost of alternative travel to destination by a safer means of transport; medical benefit and a compensation, all over and above what the Railways may offer. This policy must be an automatic coverage when ticket is issued. Will the LIC or any other insurer take the challenge?

In the meantime, there is always the cry for the Minister concerned to resign, which is done invariably. When accidents occur and detailed enquiry is conducted, culprits are identified and punished. But the travellers and their families that went through the trauma and agony are not compensated in anyway. This also needs to be addressed.

For floods, the minister concerned hops into a plane and makes an "aerial survey" as though he will be able to make any assessment! Likewise, in case of a train accident, the Minister hops into an helicopter and visits the site and assures the victims that they will be taken care of and compensated.

With the 3rd world's largest railway system in operation, our rescue methods also needs vast improvement in terms of machinery and trained manpower.

Can we plan all these in the next couple of 5 year plans?

Thanks mr Kini for following up on the railway issue.

Regards Ramdas



In Reply to anantha ramdas 5 years ago

i recall seeing such an ad from tata aig on irctc, where you could add travel insurance along with the ticket purchase. but after the recent accidents, i can see those have been withdrawn cleverly:)

Sensex, Nifty in a highly risky zone: Friday Closing Report

Nifty may find minor support at 4,800. If it breaches this level it may slide to 4,700 and thereafter to 4,500

The market settled in the negative for the third day on dismal economic indicators and global concerns. On a below 10 day moving average of volume of 54.64 crore shares on the National Stock Exchange (NSE), the Nifty made a seven day (including today) closing low of 4,842. Presently the market is in a precarious situation. It may find minor support at 4,800; if it breaches this level, the benchmark may easily slip to level of 4,700 and thereafter to 4,500.

The market opened flat on concerns about the slowing growth, which was evident from the economic data released on Thursday. Globally, markets in the US closed lower on a rise in jobless claims rose for the seventh week and marginal increase in private jobs. The Asian pack was down in morning trade on dismal Chinese factory output data for May and continuing Eurozone problems.

Back home, the Nifty opened 13 points down at 4,911 and the Sensex resumed trade at 16,218, one point down from its previous close. Select buying soon saw the indices rise to their intraday highs. At this point, the Nifty inched up to 4,925 and the Sensex 16,226.

However, the market pared a portion of the gains and was range-bound in subsequent trade. The indices witnessed a sharp slide in late-morning trade as institutional selling continued unabated.

Meanwhile, the HSBC India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI)-a measure of factory production-slipped slightly to 54.8 in May, from 54.9 in April, due to slowing domestic order book.

The benchmarks continued to trade lower in the post-noon session as the main European gauges were lower after a mixed opening on disappointing economic indicators. Once again, the market sank to the day's lows towards the end of trade with the Nifty falling to 4,832 and the Sensex dropping to 15,933.

With no support coming, the market closed near the lows of the day. The Nifty finished 83 points (1.68%) down at 4,842 and the Sensex tumbled 253 points (1.56%) to send the session at 15,965.

The advance-decline ratio on the NSE was in favour of the losers at 376:1037.

Among the broader markets, the BSE Mid-cap index declined 1.46% and the BSE Small-cap index dropped 1.22%.

The BSE Fast Moving Consumer Goods index (up 0.37%) was the lone gainer in the sectoral space today. The losers were led by BSE Capital Goods (down 2.99%); BSE Power (down 2.49%); BSE Auto (down 2.17%); BSE Oil & Gas (down 2.11%) and BSE IT (down 2.01%).

The top performers on the Sensex were GAIL India (up 2.65%); ITC (up 1.54%) and Sun Pharma (up 0.24%). The top losers were Tata Motors (down 3.73%); Larsen & Toubro (down 3.22%); Reliance Industries (down 3.16%); Sterlite Industries (down 3.08%) and Maruti Suzuki (down 2.94%).

The top gainers on the Nifty were ITC (up 2.27%); GAIL (up 1.62%); Sun Pharma (up 0.36%) and Hindalco Industries (up 0.30%). The main losers were Asian Paints (down 6.13%); Cairn India (down 5.57%); Siemens (down 5.43%); Bank of Baroda and Ranbaxy (down 5.05% each).

Markets across Asia, with the exception of the Shanghai Composite, closed weak on lower factory output data from China and the situation in Europe. However, Chinese stocks rose on speculations that the slowdown might prompt the country's policymakers to announce growth-boosting initiatives.

The Hang Seng fell by 0.38%; the Jakarta Composite declined 0.86%; the KLSE Composite dropped 0.45%; the Nikkei 225 tanked 1.20%; the Straits Times fell 0.97%; the KOSPI Composite lost 0.49% and the Taiwan Weighted tumbled 2.68%. Bucking the trend, the Shanghai Composite gained 0.05%.

At the time of writing, the key European indices were down between 0.84% to 1.57% and the US stock futures were sharply lower.

Back home, institutional investors-both foreign and domestic-were net sellers in the equities segment on Thursday. While foreign investors withdrew Rs665.76 crore, domestic institutional investors pulled out Rs266.30 crore.

Shriram EPC's board has approved a fund raising plans up to Rs150 crore through issue of equity shares in the form of QIPs/ADRs/GDRs/FCCBs/ and/or any other securities convertible into equity shares and/or rights issue or any combination thereof. The stock gained 0.79% to settle at Rs57.60 on the NSE.

Hinduja Foundries, at its board meeting, has approved the withdrawal of the proposed rights issue due to the volatile market conditions. The proposed issue was 1.66 crore equity shares of Rs10 each (for cash at Rs75 a share, including the premium of Rs65), aggregating Rs124.98 crore on rights basis in the ratio of 29:50. The stock surged 2.29% to close at Rs53.50 on the NSE.

Magma Fincorp has forayed into the gold loan business with the launch of Magma Gold Loan. The company's board of directors, in their meeting held on 15 December 2011 had passed an enabling resolution to enter into gold loan business. Further, the company is planning to start its retail housing finance business during the next fiscal. The stock gained 1.55% to close at Rs59.05 on the NSE.


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