Is safety on wheels finally being guaranteed?
Rashi Aditi Ghosh
The number of train accidents and safety of passengers were addressed by Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda on Tuesday with a slew of measures slated to be put into operation. But are these measures good enough as per the high-level committee on safety benchmark?
A Zee Research Group (ZRG) analysis shows that this railway budget for a change has indeed focused on a few points recommended by Indian Railways the high-level committee on safety.
In February 2012, the High Level Safety Review Committee headed by Dr Anil Kakodkar cautioned that unmanned level crossings persistently caused accidents resulting in severe casualties. Gowda’s first railway budget has proposed complete elimination of unmanned level crossings.
Gowda mentioned his budget speech that “Indian Railways has 30,348 level crossings, out of which 11563 are unmanned. Each unmanned crossing is being examined in detail and, depending on the site condition, action will be taken to eliminate it by suitable modality.”
In addition to this, the Minister also adhered to the Kakodar committee recommendation for usage of modern technologically driven vehicle borne ultrasonic testing machine for faster and reliable detection rail and weld flaws.
Gowda announced that “Indian Railways proposes to use modern Vehicle Borne Ultrasonic Flaw Detection System to detect rail and weld fractures. In addition, Ultrasonic Broken Rail Detection System (UBRD) will also be tried at two locations as a Pilot Project.”
The Minister also proposed usage of automatic closing of doors before start of train, both in main line and in sub-urban coaches.
ZRG analysis based on Lok Sabha questions answered on February 6, 2014 also shows that women Railway Police Force (RPF) merely constitute 2 per cent of the sanctioned RPF and 25 percent of the overall sanctioned RPF seats are vacant. This obviously shows flaws in railway safety services.
To bridge this security gap, Gowda announced that 17,000 RPF constables have been recruited and shall be shortly available for deployment. He also proposed the recruitment of 4,000 women RPF constables.
According to railway ministry report, 54 rapes cases were reported in 2013, which were higher than 47 cases reported in 2012. Ensuring safety in this regard, the minister announced that with the induction of women RPF constables, coaches for ladies will be escorted. Additional care will be taken for ladies travelling alone in all classes.
RPF escorting teams in trains will be provided mobile phones so that passengers can contact them when in distress. The security helpline will also be augmented.
Frequent occurrence of railway accidents has also been taken care of in this budget and Simulation Centre to study causes of accidents has been proposed.
Safety of elderly and handicapped was also promised with provision for new foot over bridges, escalators, and platform shelters, battery operated cars and toilets at all major stations through PPP route.
The budget also opened a whole new era of food safety-health and hygiene. Railways has proposed setting up of food courts at major stations, option of ordering food through SMS, ready-to-eat meals and RO drinking water at stations.
CCTVs will also be used at stations for monitoring cleanliness at railway stations.