Governance · Law · Public Policy

Railways: Accountable for Safe and Complete Journey of Passengers?

“People’s lives are in the care of the railways when they get on a train. The railways should remember that.”[1]

Transportation is the lifeline of a nation as it adds speed and efficiency in the country’s progress. But the transport sector in India is associated with different challenges. “Transportation issues and infrastructural delays affect a nation’s progress and India needs much faster and efficient transportation systems.”[2]

Indian Railway is the fourth largest network in the world comprising large miles of tracks over numerous routes and stations. Since its inception, Indian Railway has enhanced a lot. It is one of the cheapest and the most convenient mode of transport for passengers both for long and short distances. It has played a vital role in the development and progress of various industries. For instance, Textile Industry in Mumbai, Jute Industries in Kolkata, Coal Industry in Jharkhand, have flourished because of railways as transportation of raw materials to the Industrial areas became easier. It has also boosted agriculture in a sense that the farmers could sell their agricultural produce to various places. The Railways have actually created a link between the cities and the countryside and has removed its aloofness to a great extent. But in the past few years, Railways have deteriorated a lot and that requires immense consideration.

“When you’re on a Railway Station Platform waiting for the train that is due, and when you come to know that it would arrive five hours late, how do you react?”[3] Obviously, people can do nothing in this situation except bursting out and they end up with some abusive words. Now, this is certainly not the solution. Passengers face a lot of inconvenience in this regard. It is true that the trains can be on time only when the track line signal is clear. But trauma of the passengers also cannot be ignored. Besides this issue, there is another one that cannot be overlooked. And that relates to the safety of the passengers for which the Indian Railway has never been made accountable. Issues plaguing the rail transport are the differential speeds of train, inadequate connectivity to ports and mines, inability to carry longer and heavier trains, etc.

With the increase in the number of passengers every day, the number of accidents and deaths has also increased. This has certainly created hesitation in the minds of the general public whether it would be safe for them to begin their journey using this mode of transport. It is sad to note that world’s 15% of railway accidents are from India. For instance, the period between 2007-2011, railway accidents took 1019 lives and injured 2118 in India. It also killed 1600 railway staffs and injured 8700 people. Unlawful trespassing kills about 15, 000 persons each year as per the report. Fire, collision, derailments and unmanned railway crossings are major reasons for the rail accidents.[4]

The increasing number of accidents is thereby infringing the right of safety of the passengers and this raises a question as to what can be the reasons behind the occurrence of the same. To point out few, one major reason can be low investment in the railway sector. It is to be noted that the Indian Railway is carrying 15 times more passengers than its actual capacity which is damaging the old tracks. The sleeper class coaches are not equipped with fire detection systems. Besides, there is no instalment of automatic devices to stop the train if it crosses red signal. Many a times, accidents occur in the bridge during the rainy season because there is no regular inspection of bridges and tracks.

Other important issues are theft and robbery that are committed against the passengers. As per the recent National Crime Records Bureau report, crime in trains has seen an upswing over the past three years. The report also reveals an increase in rate of robberies in trains. The reason behind the same could be the shortage of ticket checkers. Many unauthorized people go unnoticed and this results in criminal activities. This implies that security of the passengers is taken for granted and there is no step towards making the same proper and safe. Amendments in the Acts are not required at all. What is required is the better implantation of the existing laws. An integrated security system should be implemented to strengthen surveillance mechanism over sensitive stations of the Indian Railways. This was suggested by PS Rawal, Inspector General Crime, Indian Railways.

The Charter of Indian Railways provides for the general responsibility of railway administration towards the passengers. It says that Indian Railways are committed to the achievement of norms and indices of performance and service standards except in the event of natural calamities, civil disturbances, and disruption of communication and consequences of any act or omission not attributed to the Indian Railway or their servants and agents. This is an effort to provide transparent, accountable, as also citizen-friendly administrative machinery, which is responsive to the needs of its customers. This is also a declaration by the Indian Railway Administration to provide the highest possible passenger care and a commitment to continuously strive to improve the standards of services offered.

From the language of the Charter, even a layman can make out that the Railway Administration is responsible for the safe and complete journey of passengers. But the reality ground is opposite. Passengers either are victims of crimes or accidents. Moreover, if their journey is supposed to be of 12 hours then due to the delay in the trains, they sacrifice another long hours to complete their whole journey. This way the Rail Administration is completely losing its respect and honour. Therefore, the afore-mentioned issues are needed to be considered soon and solutions in that regard have to be made as early as possible so as to ensure a proper and safe journey for the passengers.

[1] Nina Bawden, An English Novelist and Children’s Writer.

[2] Amitabh Kant, CEO Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC).

[3] Sri Sathya Sai Baba Quotes available at http://thinkexist.com/quotes/with/keyword/railway/ as visited on January 16, 2015.

[4] The Report of High Level Safety Review Committee of 2012.

About the Author

MeghaMegha is a Final Year Law Student, pursuing B.A. LL.B. (Five-Year Integrated Course) from Faculty of Law, Mody University of Science & Technology, Rajasthan. She is inclined towards writing and research. Besides that, she loves blogging and runs her own blog. Currently, she is interning with the Model Governance Foundation.

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