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Roha Tragedy: CM has no time to discuss rail safety, says CR

Central Railway officials claim CM’s office has been denying them an appointment to discuss key issues, including handling post-accident scenarios better, for nearly six months

The state government and the railways seem to be engaged in a cold war on several issues, including that of providing more ambulances and better medical facilities after accidents.

In the aftermath of the derailment of the Diva-Sawantwadi passenger express train derailment near Roha, in which 22 lives were lost and more than a hundred people were injured, mid-day asked a senior Central Railway official why the railways was not taking the help of the state government in tying up with private hospitals to treat accident victims and for other such issues.

Also read: Maharashtra train derailment: When will Central Railway wake up?

22 people died and over 120 were injured when a Diva-Sawantwadi train derailed near Roha. PIC/AFP
22 people died and over 120 were injured when a Diva-Sawantwadi train derailed near Roha. PIC/AFP

He said, “We have been asking for at least 6 months now, but the CM’s office has not been giving us an appointment to discuss key issues, which also includes improving medical facilities after a rail accident.”

Other senior CR staff said that even senior bureaucrats in the state government had been denying them appointments. “When accident victims are taken to private hospitals, they are simply turned away and redirected to civic- or state-run hospitals for treatment, which are often very far away. Had the state government intervened, this could have been taken care of before the Roha derailment,” said a CR official.

The railways and the state government have both been avoiding communicating on key issues and railway officials even fear repercussions if they ask their political bosses to intervene. After the Roha derailment, for instance, both Union Minister of Railway Mallikarjun Kharge and Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had gone to the accident site and to meet victims, but there was hardly any discussion on improving the situation in the future.

Railway officials say coordination post-rail accidents has always been an issue and point out that while disaster management is a problem, restarting of train services happens relatively easily.

After the derailment on Sunday, there were not enough ambulances for the injured passengers.

“There were only four ambulances,” said SK Sood, General Manager, Central Railway.

Health Minister Suresh Shetty has, however, claimed that the state government is in the process of introducing 400 more ambulances throughout the state in the days to come.

Despite repeated attempts, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan was not available for comment.

Central Railway considers airlifting accident victims
The recent spate of railway accidents and the delay in getting victims to hospitals has shaken railway authorities. Central Railway’s General Manager, S K Sood, told mid-day that the need of the hour is to have air ambulances and even those on the ground should be able to accommodate seven to eight patients at a time.

“The ambulances which we have now can only accommodate one patient, we need ambulances which can accommodate at least 7-8 patients and a doctor. We are also thinking of the air ambulance option. Air ambulances can help the patients reach hospitals quickly and get treated within the golden hour period,” said Sood.

A railway official said that while they have thought of rushing doctors to accident sites, they insist that patients should be brought to hospitals instead.

“Doctors are not sure of the kind of injuries that the accident victims have suffered and so they ask that the victims be admitted to a hospital,” said the official.
— Vedika Chaubey

'Railways denied victims Lifeline'

In letter to NDMA, CEO of Impact India Foundation, an NGO which runs Lifeline Express, expresses dismay that Central Railway did not approach them for help

mid-day’s report yesterday on the Lifeline Express — a state-of-the-art hospital on wheels — standing idle at CST when the Roha derailment occurred, has prompted the CEO of the NGO that runs the train to write a terse letter to the National Disaster Manag-ement Authority (NDMA), expressing dismay that they were not approached for help.

Read: Roha derailment: As victims died, hospital on wheels stood still at CST

Lifeline halted: The Lifeline Express was brought to Mumbai for an exhibition. File pic
Lifeline halted: The Lifeline Express was brought to Mumbai for an exhibition. File pic

When mid-day had spoken to S K Sood, general manager, CR on Tuesday, he had said that the Lifeline Express bel-ongs to an NGO, that it is not meant for railway accident victims and that no doctors had been appointed for the train.

In her letter to vice-chairman of NDMA, M Shashidhar Reddy, CEO, Impact India Foundation, Zelma Lazarus, has, however, laid bare each of these claims and stated that had the NGO been appr-oached, it could have arranged a team of doctors for the train to assist the victims.

When we contacted Lazarus yesterday, she said, “We are always there to help patients. We cannot go anywhere on our own and since we have partnered with the railways for the Lifeline Express, we couldn’t unilaterally decide to send the train to the derailment site. Had the railways approached us, we would have arranged a team of doctors and definitely sent the train to help the victims.”

National resource
In the letter, Lazarus wrote that Impact India Foundation is listed with the NDMA as a National Resource in times of disaster and went on the cite instances when the train aided in disaster relief.

“In appropriate cases, our Lifeline Express can be of service to the Nation and you can be sure it will be available in such circumstances. There have been occasions in the past when, at the instance of Lt General Bhardwaj, the lifeline train was moved immediately to the disaster site: at the time of the Latur Earthquake in 1993, and at Bhuj/Anjar in 2001, where it was stationed for six months to serve those in need,” the letter states.

Dismayed
Making no attempt to hide the NGO’s dismay at not being approached, the letter goes on to say, “We are therefore most concerned to read the headline on page one of mid-day today (Wednesday): ‘As derailment victims died in Roha, Lifeline Express stood still at CST’. Since we are known to the NDMA and as partners to the Indian Railways (IR), we are dependent on them for movement of the train. Since the derailment was a major accident, the NDMA or the IR could have approached us. Depending on the kind of me-dical emergency, we could have arranged a team of doctors.”

The other side
Narendra Patil, Chief PRO, CR, said, “Sending the Lifeline Express (to the derailment site) was not needed as we had already sent our medical vans from Kalyan, which would reach there earlier.”

CR vs Lifeline
Lifeline Express belongs to an NGO. It is not meant for railway accident victims though surgeries, operations and other medical treatments are performed for poor people in rural areas. No doctors have been appointed for this express. — S K Sood, general manager, CR, to mid-day on Tuesday

Since we have partnered with the railways for the Lifeline Express, we couldn’t unilaterally decide to send the train to the derailment site. Had the railways approached us, we would have arranged a team of doctors and definitely sent the train to help the victims. — Zelma Lazarus, CEO, Impact India Foundation
--Team mid-day

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