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Railways needs to act, not react

One accident can drastically change a person’s life. It can result in an outburst of emotions or reduce a person to a mere statistic. With Sunday’s derailment of the Diva-Sawantwadi Passenger train near Roha, 21 people became statistics part of the data for the number of deaths caused due to rail accidents. But the question that everyone is asking is when will all this stop?

Over the past few days and months, there have been numerous incidents in which the railway administration has been found wanting when it comes to the maintenance of tracks, trains and other railway equipment. The demise of a young Ghatkopar lad after a train derailed near Titwala and the charred coaches of the Dehradun Express at Dahanu are still fresh in people’s minds.

Most of these cases, including that of three trains catching fire at CST, have been attributed to mischievous elements, with the authorities shying away from taking responsibility. Statistics show that an average of 10 people die every day on the city’s suburban railway line.

Yet, the Indian Railways never seems to act. It simply reacts to these events. What follows is simply a show, with politicians and senior bureaucrats visiting hospitals and the site of the accident and then announcing an ex-gratia. What about stopping these incidents or at least providing better medical facilities?

Sadly, even after the High Court’s intervention, there are neither enough medical centres at railway stations nor any life saving medical kits available. By the time a victim actually gets medical attention, it is usually too late. Railway authorities dread accidents occuring between two stations in remote areas. They realize that getting there in time would be a nightmare and even hospitals and medical centres in such areas are out of reach.

They know this, and yet little is done to be prepared for such eventualities. The need of the hour is for the state government and the railways to come together and have a foolproof plan to reduce, and deal with, accidents. After all, railway commuters do not have nine lives.

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