Railways propose cess for emergency medical service, HC says no

The Central and Western Railways today told the Bombay High Court that they proposed to levy a cess on suburban commuters to finance emergency medical care at stations but were asked by the bench to reconsider their decision as it was their statutory obligation to provide such service.

"In keeping with the court orders, the Railways have to provide at their own cost an emergency medical room equipped with a bed, doctor and a nurse at every station and also keep ambulance as stand by to shift injured to hospitals in case of accidents," said a bench headed by Justice Abjay Oka. As far as possible, the cost of such emergency medical services should be borne by the Railways, the bench said and asked the authorities to reconsider their decision of levying an additional charge on the commuters in tickets.

The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by Samir Zaveri, who lost his legs in a railway accident, seeking medical facilities for accident victims in "golden hour" (within one hour of the accident). The authorities informed the court that to begin with emergency medical rooms will be provided within the next three to six months at stations such as Kurla, Thane, Dombivali, Kalyan, Karjat, Wadala, Vashi and Panvel on the Central Railway route.

On the Western Railway, such facility would be made available at Churchgate, Mumbai Central, Bandra, Andheri, Borivali, Vasai and Palghar stations. The emergency medical rooms will have a doctor, nurse and an attendant working in shifts so that injured persons get immediate medical attention, the Railways said.

They said the proposed charge would be known as "Golden Hour Cess". The court had asked the Railways to set up emergency medical rooms on the lines of its existing facility at Dadar. "It is not necessary at every station but at least at those stations which have witnessed more than 100 deaths in the past one year," another bench had earlier said.

Advocate Suresh Kumar, appearing for Western Railways, told the court that in cases where there is a government hospital within 500 metre radius of the railway station an accident victim is taken there. "But in the absence of a government hospital, the railways has tied up with certain private hospitals where victims can be taken," he said.

Hundreds of people die every year on the city's suburban railway system after falling from overcrowded trains and crossing the tracks. The matter has been posted for December 24 for direction.

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