Amritsar Train Accident: A Sad Story Of ‘Bad’ Governance

Amritsar Train Accident

The train accident at Amritsar at the time of burning of effigy of Ravana on Dusshera is painful and it is difficult to fathom the pain, horror, trauma of victims and associated ones.

Politics of blaming each other has started and everyone is trying to save its pachyderm from the attacks of people who have no option except to voice their anger by asking the authorities why did it happen?

Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu has called it as carelessness and has blamed the Railways saying train did not have the horns. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has ordered a magisterial inquiry but they have not talked about the administrative lapses of the local administration.

Junior Railways Minister Manoj Sinha has clearly stated that there is no fault of Railways. Same is the version of top Railway officials from Chairman of Board to DRM.

Then whose fault it is? Common men’s worst fault is that they got such irresponsible governance.

Railway driver did not slow the speed, he must have definitely seen the fire and smoke from far away but local train continued in full throttle.

Sources told news agency IANS that the driver has claimed that he was given a green signal and all clear, and that he had no idea that hundreds of people were standing on the tracks when the train crossed the area. ( Railway officers say that it was not prudent to apply the emergency brakes, when then it should have been applied? Why did train stop only at junction? It means the train driver had taken no care of the people standing on tracks. Whenever trains pass through the busy residential areas where people cross the tracks as the case was in this accident too, then drivers slow down the speed but poor dead people had no such mercy of fate. Railways forgot to take note of this fact and more than 60 people have died so far.

The primary responsibility of accident will lie with the Railways because people died from its train. Whatsoever were other factors contributing in the accident are also worth consideration but from this accident it cannot keep itself away from the blame and criticism. Indian Railways have caused several accidents in the recent time and this being no exception.

The major cause of this failure is that Railways do not give importance to security in comprehensive way. The local and basic problems have remained unattended as it was imperative to fence the tracks where such tracks are located in the residential area, or to teach the loco pilots about basic driving norms as how to drive in the crowded areas. Instead the emphasis is on showcasing the modern train system, bullet trains or Tejas Express like systems have gained currency in the politico-administrative system. Thus focus is on premium class not on the underprivileged class of people travelling or living around the tracks..

The Annual Reports of Railways are silent on such security issues as what should be done when such festivals are going on in open space and tracks are located nearby. Neither these reports elaborate about any HR Training Programmes for the loco pilots. The high level officers and policy planners should see those hidden areas of danger which common people can’t. This is the reason that they are at the helm of affairs. It must be duty of the Chairman of Railway Board to find out the real areas of dangers where accidents are likely to take place but Chairman and associates are busy in saving the Railways from the disastrous accident. This is in fact low level of administrative governance.

Indian Railways Annual Report & Accounts 2016-17 talks about Train Protection & Warning System (TPWS). It says that ‘Train Protection & Warning System (TPWS) has capability to control the speed of train in accordance with the sectional permitted speed and signal aspect ahead, by automatic actuation of brakes, in case loco pilot fails to do so in time. Thus, it mitigates safety risk of accidents/collisions due to loco pilot’s error of Signal Passing at Danger or over speeding. TPWS also reduces delay during foggy weather. It is based on a proven European train protection technology which is deployed extensively on World Railways. TPWS based on this proven technology has been operationalzed on 342 RKMs on Indian Railways. Introduction of this technology on high density network of Indian Railway is being given priority. TPWS works have been sanctioned on 3,330 RKM for Automatic Signalling/High Density Routes on Eastern, South Eastern, Western, North Central, Central, Northern, Southern and South Central Railways.’ The moot question is whether application of such systems have been operationalised in only select few trains or has expanded for the smaller, less important trains as well? Answer is not difficult to know. Common people do not know the technical things. They trust the operators as is the story in all accidents. Railways instead of saving itself should have come forward to accept that it failed because Loco Pilot was not alert enough.

The Indian administrative system at every level whether at Local administration or at the level of Railways like structures are deficient of excellence. They all work with no proper accountability and responsibility, if these twin administrative concepts would have been adopted and excellence mode in work would have been implemented, such highly unfortunate accidents would have been prevented.

But there is no value of lives of common people. British had said that after Independence Indians will fail in administration. They may laugh in their graves someday, may be today; and Indian administrators will keep on saving their thick pachyderms from genuine sorrows of the common people.

Dr. Vivek Kumar Srivastava is associated with CSSP, Kanpur as Vice Chairman and as Faculty CSJM University (Affiliated College). Recent publication is ‘Lohia and two segregations of caste and sex’, Mainstream Weekly, issue dated 20th October,2018


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