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
1 decade 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
1 decade 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
Replied to anantha ramdas comment 1 decade 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:)
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