Odisha Train Accident : Stop Apathy Towards Railways And Defence Industry

Will this be a saga to be forgotten, asks an emotional C. Srikumar, Senior Trade Union Leader


Country is not recovered from the shock of the horrifying Train Accident which killed hundreds of people and more than a thousand struggling for life near Balasore at Odisha on the ill fated late evening of Friday. This accident is the worst of its type since 1995. With the vast development of Technology in the Railway Transporting System all over the world, why this Accident has happened, who is responsible, where the failure has taken place ?

On one side, whole Country is mourning. Any amount of Ex-gratia cannot console the families who lost their loved ones. Side by side discussions in the media especially in the Social media is going on day and night about the Accident. Railways have recommended for CBI Inquiry. Is the Government and Railways going to take the safety of the rail passengers seriously, or will go back to its routine after ordering an inquiry.

Many questions are required to be answered in the coming days. Will the Railway Minister’s resignation will solve the problem. The whole matter needs to be viewed in a technical and scientific angle and also the difficulties faced by the human resource of the Railways and immediate remedial measures needs to be taken.

C. Srikumar says “I was in Kolkata when this accident took place. I was very much shocked to see the scene of the accident site on TV channels. I am also a frequent Train traveler and in regular touch with the Railway Trade Union Leaders. I have participated in many of the agitations of the Railway Employees against the Government’s apathy towards Indian Railways. First of all I convey my heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family and what’s immediately required is to ensure that all required relief is given to the family of those who were killed in the Accident. One of the family member of the deceased person, should be immediately given an appointment in the Railways. To give the best treatment to those who have injured and save their lives. Next is, its the responsibility of the Government and Railways to build up confidence in the minds of the 95% people who depend on Railways for their travel and journey that their safety is ensured.

Now, let us critically analyze why the prestigious Indian Railways has come to this stage. Easy way for the Railways and the self claimed experts is to blame the Employees with out understanding the ground realities or deliberately forgetting the same. Two major Industry under the Government , Defence and Railways are the victims of the Government’s policies and apathy. See the fate of 41 Ordnance Factories after its Corporatisation. It’s not that the employees are suffering. The Country and the Armed Forces will suffer when a crisis or a war like situation emerges. Ordnance Factories cannot be treated like a Commercial Industry. Its for the Security requirement of our Country. But the Government is not prepared to listen. The bureaucrats who did the damage in the Defence Ministry by Corporatising the Ordnance Factories, none of them are now there to sort out the problems.

Same is the situation in the Railways. The ICF Perambur made Railway Couches are designed in such a manner it absorbs shocks between successive Coaches called Anti-Telescopic Devise. Instead of strengthening and expanding ICF and other Coach Factories majority of the Work is outsourced. First casualty of any outsourcing is the quality of work. Private Industries deploy untrained and unqualified workers for cheap wages. The reason being told for the present accident is signal failure. Many of the Signals are neither working nor working properly. Wrong Signals result in wrong route and the result is accident. I was discussing with some of the Loco Pilots on this issue. They said that they have complained several times about the failures in Signaling, but no remedial action taken. Our country is having the longest Railway lines which connects all part of the Country. Every year, 4500 kilometers of Railway track gets damaged and out of which hardly 2000 kilometers gets repaired or replaced.

Due to this more than 19500 kilometers tracks needs to be maintained. Same is the condition with Railway bridges. If these Bridges are not properly maintained then it will result in more disasters. Reason for the neglect being told by the Railways Authorities is deficiency of Funds. Funds have become a major problem after the Railways Budget has been abolished and merged with the General Budget and now the Railways, is at the mercy of Finance Ministry.

At Present in Railways more than 3 lakh posts including Loco Pilots, Technicians, Trackman etc. are remaining vacant. With such a huge shortage of manpower how Indian Railways can mange the affairs nationwide. Due to shortage of Loco Pilots, they are asked to work continuously for 14 to 16 hours. Even toilet facilities are not provided to them. Women Loco Pilots face innumerable problems.

2 lakh Trackman posts are alone is remaining unfilled. ILO studies have clearly brought out the ill-effects of long working hours. Differences in opinion are about the much propagated Kavach Safety devise. Government’s apathy towards Railways and Defence Industry should come to an end. Let the government come out of its adamancy and hopeless policies and strengthen the Railways, using latest technology, stopping privatisation and outsourcing, bring back the time-tested separate budget, find out resources for modernizing Railway Services, provide the required passenger amenities, reduce the working hours, fill up all vacant posts which will go a long way in motivating the workforce and gaining the confidence of the people on our great Indian Railways, said an emotional Srikumar.

The decision taken to abolish various All India Specialized Services of Railways also needs to be a reviewed and specialization is always the requirement of any industry. Any sensitive and intelligent Governments, if they find that their decisions/policies are failing and not giving the desired results, then it should be withdrawn, which will only bolster the image of the government. Hope the present Government Advisers will play that role. After all experience is the best university of learning, concluded C. Srikumar.

Views expressed here are those of senior trade union leader C. Srikumar, who is also the Deputy General Secretary of WFTU and National Secretary of AITUC as well as AIDEF

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