ISI angle in train accidents merits probing: NIA
Three cases involving attempts to blast tracks at East Champaran, Indore-Patna Express derailment and last week's Koneru rail accident are currently being investigated by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). During the investigation, NIA has found Bihar police's probe pointing to an ISI-backed sabotage plot to be prima facie correct. According to the agency, the ISI angle merits further probe.
Over 23 million use Indian Railways network each day
Over 23 million people use the Indian Railways (IR) network every day. It contributes to India's economic growth, accounting for about 1% of the GNP. IR directly accounts for 6% of total employment and 2.5% indirectly. But its poor safety record has marred its image.
204 accidents due to failure of railway staff
Around 81,038 people were killed due to trespassing on railway tracks, 346 while crossing unmanned line crossings, and 392 due to the train accidents in 2012-16. Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha said human errors have also been one of the main causes of accidents. According to past accident inquiry reports, 204 accidents were caused by the failure of the railway staff.
Poor infrastructure caused 50% of train derailments
With the recent Kanpur train tragedy, the Indian Railways' poor infrastructure is once again in the spotlight. The transporter's "utter" neglect in upgrading/maintaining infrastructure caused over 50% of the derailments in the past three years, 29% of which were due to defects like rail and weld failures. Accidents caused by derailment increased by 67% in the current fiscal year, compared to the previous one.
A railway official's statement
A railway official stated, "Safety performance has deteriorated in the current financial year as the number of train accidents has gone up to 80 against 69 in the same period last year."
Rail fracture behind the Indore-Patna Express accident
Initial findings revealed the Indore-Patna Express tragedy was caused due to rail fracture. The railway officials are aware of the poor safety record but haven't been able to do anything to improve the situation. The Indian Railways had admitted a primary cause behind a spike in derailments was poor infrastructure maintenance, and lack of precautionary measures against flash floods, falling boulders, and landslides.
Poor track maintenance causes rail fractures
Poor track maintenance, including lack of proper fittings and ballast, causes rail fractures. A railway official said the damage in the Kanpur tragedy could have been less if stainless steel Linke Holfmann Bush coaches (per the Anil Kakodkar Committee's suggestions) were deployed. They have more safety features, can absorb shock and prevent derailment effectively. IR's poor financial health prevented it from upgrading old assets.
Railways promises to replace old coaches, increase safety staff
Reports indicated that Indian Railways recorded over 24 "averted collisions" in the last five years; there is also a shortage of 1.27 lakh employees in the "safety category". The All India Railwaymen's Federation stated that one employee was doing the work of three. The Indian Railways has promised to increase Linke-Holfmann Bush (LHB) coach production to replace old Integral Coach Factory designed coaches.
Railways doubles compensation for accident victims
The Indian Railways has decided to double the compensation for victims of rail disasters in the country. The immediate family of passengers who die in a train accidents, will get Rs.8 lakh and so will victims facing disfigurement and loss of limbs. The compensation will be over and above the payments made by rail insurance services to the victims and their families.
Hirakhand Express derailment may be probed by the NIA
The sabotage suspected by the Railways in the Hirakhand Express derailment may call for the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to include this incident in their probe. The NIA is already investigating the role of ISI (Pakistan's spy agency) in last year's Indore-Patna Express mishap. Three arrested persons have claimed that the Indore-Patna Express derailment was carried out at the behest of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).