Bihar train derailment exposes security loopholes GoI needs to work upon

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Rajdhani Express Accident
Patna, June 25: Days' ahead of presenting his maiden Rail Budget, the derailment of Dibrugarh-bound Rajdhani Express at a station near Chapra, Bihar, has posed a major trouble for Union Railway Minister DV Sadanand Gowda, who is already facing the ire for steep hike in rail fares.

There is a dire need to address this long-standing issue to curb such accidents with the Indian Railways. What makes this matter worse for the Narendra Modi Government is the suspected sabotage angle by Maoists, posing a threat to nation's internal security.

At least four passengers were killed and eight injured when twelve coaches were derailed in the incident at around 2 am on Wednesday. Five coaches - B-1, B-2, B-3, B-4 and pantry car - overturned in the derailment while seven other coaches - B-5 to B-10 and power car - got derailed at the Golden Ganj station, which is a Maoist hotbed.

According to Railway Board Chairman Arunendra Kumar, "Prima facie, it appears to be a case of sabotage. There was a blast on the track, which could have caused the derailment."

There was a blast on the track, which could have caused the derailment

The suspicion gains more ground as another goods train, 60 km away from the station, also got derailed due to a blast. However, the local administration has ruled out the sabotage angle and informed the Central Government that there was no blast at the site.

Investigations will reveal whether it was a Maoist act or not but going with the past experiences, one can't rule out the Maoist angle in this incident.

Trains being the soft target have always been on the Maoist radar to spread their terror. On September 9, 2002, Howrah-New Delhi Rajdhani Express was reportedly derailed by Maoists near Rafiganj station between Gaya and Dehri-on-Sone stations, in Bihar. As many as 140 passengers were killed in the dead sabotage by a local Maoist group.

Another such act was carried out by Maoists on May 28, 2010 in the West Midnapore district of West Bengal when the Jnaneswari Express was derailed by blasting the railway track. The blast led to a train's derailment before an oncoming goods train hit the loose carriages resulting in the deaths of at least 141 passengers.

There have been instances when Maoists even hijacked trains and held innocent passengers as hostage. But the security forces deployed in the trains are neither equipped nor trained to tackle such situations.

The issue of train derailment and hijacking have always haunted the Government but very little has been done in this regard. In the last decade, country has witnessed over 70 train accidents which claimed over 1175 lives due to lack of technological upgradation.

Governments over the years have set up committees to find possible solution to this problem but things are still on papers and nothing substantial has been done so far.

In 2012, the Kakodkar committee was set up on train safety headed by Dr Anil Kakodkar, famous Indian nuclear scientist. He had recommended setting up of a statutory Railway Safety Authority and a safety architecture which is potent to have a safety oversight on the operational mode of Indian Railways without detaching safety with the railway operations. So far, nothing has been implemented from this committee's report.

Soon after the Gorakhdham Express accident that claimed 20 lives, Sadananda Gowda emphasised on improving safety of Indian Railways. Well, Mr Gowda time has come to brainstorm on this front and chalk out robust plan.

The new Government will face serious challenges in Maoist infested regions and to tackle it the Government should be ready with a foolproof plan. Modi Government will have to come out with something concrete to prove its seriousness over the issue. This will give the Government an opportunity to justify its stand that unlike its predecessors they are actually doing something for making Indian Railways world-class.

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