New Delhi, Jan 23: At least 39 people lost their lives and scores injured after the Jagdalpur-Bhubaneswar Hirakhand Express went off tracks between Rayagada and Vizianagaram section of Waltair on January 21. The railways was quick to suspect a sabotage, but a recent investigation conducted by the Bihar police has suggested that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence had a role to play in recent train derailments across India.
[Also Read: Hirakhand Express mishap: Rusted track or sabotage?]
While the National Investigation Agency is yet to reveal its findings in the alleged role of the ISI in train sabotage cases, rail accidents have been on the rise. From 53 in 2013-14 to 68 in 2016-17, statistics give a grim picture about rail safety.
A Parliamentary panel had recently pulled up the railways for failing to establish the cause behind the rising accidents on tracks. Going by various reports and statistics, it becomes clear that the railway ministry needs to pull up its socks.
Pull up your socks:
The Standing Committee on Railways said that the Railways had failed in maintaining safety standards of rail tracks. Ideally, 4,500 kilometres of the rail tracks should have been renewed annually, out of the total track length of 1.14 lakh kilometres. Out of the 5,000-km track length due for renewal at present, only 2,700 km track was targetted to be renewed, the committee had noted.
The railways has failed to address the human error involved in accidents. In 2015-16, 70 per cent of the accidents took place due to the fault of the railway staff such as poor maintenance, not adhering to safety rules and also adopting to shortcuts, the committee noted.
These statistics and observations show that there is a lot of work that needs to be done. Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, who is quite popular on Twitter and speaks about the future of the railways, was quick to announce compensation following Saturday's incident. However, the question is whether announcing compensation and ordering an in-depth probe is sufficient to compensate human lives that are at risk.
Speaking to several employees in the railways, it is clear that most of them are a demoralised lot due to poor payment of salaries. Political parties continue to use this ministry as a vote bank and refuse to hike prices. It may be recalled that Dinesh Trivedi had lost his job as railway minister when he had proposed a hike in prices.
The railways is facing huge losses on a daily basis and this has led to poor payment of salaries. Because of the huge losses, the railways is unable to adhere to safety standards and this has led to a rise in train accidents. There is no doubt that the ISI link to such accidents needs to be probed. The question is whether blaming the ISI will solve the problem.