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Mamata's mistake

Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi — the man who spent the shortest possible time in that position, for those of you who don’t remember — was the one who came to mind yesterday soon after the Doon Express, on its way from Howrah to Dehradun, derailed about 12 minutes after leaving Jaunpur station. Hours after the accident, officials struggled to find a cause.

On December 3, 2000, 46 people were killed and over 130 injured after the Howrah-Amritsar Mail rammed into a derailed goods train. There were further accidents in 2001 (40 killed), 2002 (6 accidents, over 290 killed), 2003 (over 80 killed), down to the Bangaluru-bound Hampi Express accident on May 22 that claimed 24 lives and injured over 40. These are statistics culled from the past decade alone!

Trivedi came to mind because what his budget aimed to do was bring in much-needed revenue to our cash-strapped Railways and modernise everything from tracks to signals and coaches. According to the Kakodkar Committee report, the total projected cost for this project was Rs 1,00,000 crore over five years.

Trivedi’s freight hike was to have brought in Rs 15,000 crore. His hike in rail fare was to have brought in an additional Rs 4,000 crore to railway coffers.

The present operating ratio of the railways is 95, which means it spends Rs 95 to earn every Rs 100. The utilisation of tracks between India’s four metros is well over 100 per cent. An overhaul is desperately needed, but the money simply doesn’t exist. Sadly, Trivedi didn’t get a chance to do what he wanted. Political pressure and a politician who refused to listen to reason stood in his way.

It’s a story that repeats itself every other month — of best-laid plans forced to go awry in the race to grab the biggest vote banks. 

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