If Union Minister for Railways Mallikarjun Kharge has his way, victims of railway accidents will be compensated for and financially aided by the big corporate companies in Mumbai.
While in the city to flag off four new long-distance trains yesterday, Kharge spoke about how the private sector should play a part to help victims, as part of their corporate social responsibility programme.
The minister first announced the new trains at Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (LTT), Kurla. “Mumbai as a city is very powerful, as it has many corporates and private companies. These multinationals should come forward to help victims like Monika More in future and reduce deaths,” said Kharge, who also wanted Maharashtra government’s support.
The tone and language used by the minister hinted subtly that the Railways do not have the money to improve passenger amenities in Mumbai. For instance, the minister believed it would take at least three years to level the platforms that are in bad shape.Kharge had a meeting with Railway Board members, who have been asked to allocate Rs 60-70 crore for raising platforms at 74 locations on the suburban section within next three years. “We will allocate funds accordingly for passenger amenities. If we get assistance from the state government and corporate sectors, then the time taken to complete the job will reduce,” added Kharge.
Railways’ previous attempts to coax corporates to help have proven to be futile. Only a year ago, they had asked the private sector to contribute in maintaining and cleaning the railway stations, in exchange for advertising rights. The proposal flopped and received almost no response.
Meanwhile, it took Monika More — who wrongly tried to catch a moving train and, in the process, lost her limbs — to force Indian Railways to make changes in their sacrosanct schedule of dimensions. The Railway ministry is finally considering a plan to reduce the gap between local trains and platforms. Kharge said the ministry was considering whatever was possible technically to raise the height. Last year, 19 commuters died due to the gap between platform and train.
Presently the height of a platform is 760-840 mm. Authorities in Mumbai then requested the Railway Board to allow them increasing it to 920 mm, after the Research, Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) cleared it. “We have given an in-principal approval to raise the height to 920 mm,” said a senior Railway Board member.
Better medical aid
Moreover, the state government and railway ministry will also expedite the process of having ambulances outside railway stations. “Special parking space outside railway stations will soon be provided for ambulances.
The health department is already looking into the procurement of ambulances,” said Arif Naseem Khan, guardian minister for Mumbai suburban district.
Around 108 ambulances will arrive, and would be parked outside railway stations. The Railway ministry has announced an ex-gratia compensation of Rs 5 lakh to Monika More, after Kharge met her father on Thursday.
The provision has been made due to constant political pressure from all quarters, on humanitarian grounds. As a special case, the money will be given against railway’s rules and regulations.