Rail Minister blames passengers for fire in Dehradun Express

Feb 24, 2014, 07:38 IST | Shashank Rao

In his interim budget speech, Mallikarjun Kharge had said fires were caused due to negligence by passengers; but the railways’ own internal report says no inflammable items were present on train

Union Railway Minister thinks most fires in trains are caused by negligence on part of passengers. The comment came during his speech while presenting the interim railway budget.

Three coaches suffered the worst damage when fire engulfed the Mumbai-Dehradun Express. File pic
Three coaches suffered the worst damage when fire engulfed the Mumbai-Dehradun Express. File pic

The allusion to the recent fire in the Mumbai-Dehradun Express was unmistakeable — the train which still lies in shambles near Dahanu station. Even as Kharge indirectly blamed passengers for the incident, the railways’ own internal initial report has cleared out possibilities of inflammable items present inside the coach.

According to senior railway officials, ever since the fire broke and charred three coaches, the authorities have been trying to find if there were any inflammable items on board. Soon after, the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS), and the forensic team along with senior rail officials began an enquiry. They also visited the site where the incident took place and inspected the burnt coaches.

“The forensic report has stated that there was no presence of inflammable items inside the burnt coaches, especially coach S3 where the fire originated,” said a senior railway official on condition of anonymity. The report suggests the fire may have started from the south end of the S3, and then went on towards S2. After the train halted, flames engulfed S4, while the S5 bogie was immediately uncoupled.

MiD DAY had detailed how a non-functioning chain could have saved lives, how the closed windows led to suffocation. The fire led to nine deaths four were charred to death while five suffocated.

The railway authorities, ever since the day of fire, had suspected presence of an inflammable item. They also had suspected a woman behind the cause, who was allegedly puffing cigarettes inside the train. “We haven’t yet found any cigarette or beedi or any kind inflammable inside,” said another official.

The railways seem to be trying to prove that passengers were at fault. The CRS, who is part of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, has asked for more details on the train and is looking for the probable reason of fire. A report would then be sent to the Railway Ministry, which would entail the probable cause of fire. There is no chance that the battery or motor of the coach burned out , causing the fire these were present on the other end of S3.

The incident
On January 8, minutes after it left Dahanu Road station, the Mumbai-Dehradun Express suddenly caught fire. The blaze was noticed by gateman Jawahar Singh around 2.25 am, who then called the stationmaster at Gholwad. The stationmaster Sriram Prasad informed the police and also cut off power supply to the overhead cables to avoid further damage.

What Kharge said
“A few unfortunate accidents involving fire in trains have occurred in the recent past, leading to loss of precious lives. Even though some of these incidents were caused due to inadvertent acts of negligence on the part of passengers, Railways have initiated action to ensure that such incidents are averted and loss of lives eliminated.

A Comprehensive Fire and Smoke Detection System is on trial on two rakes of Rajdhani Express trains. Based on the success of these trials, this will be extended to all major passenger trains.”

Number of casualties in the incident, including five who suffocated and four who were charred to death

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