Indian Railways Turning Into A Death Trap

July 19, 2010
Being Cynical

Out of sheer habit I switch on my TV set early morning to get hold of any overnight breaking news that I might have missed, while at the same time going over the morning news paper. Today wasn't any different on that way but for the tragic breaking news on television. Yet another train accident, with more than 50 dead in West Bengal (although the wreckage suggests the toll might be double than this) and hundreds injured and Mamta didi rushing to the spot somewhere from Delhi taking a much needed break from her ever so busy schedule of gun battles with the Left. Honestly I was not expecting this horrific news within 60 days of the Janeswari Express accident, which also unfortunately unfolded early in the morning on the idiot box.

The nature and style of this particular accident reminded me of the infamous Purusottam and Kalandi express collision back in 1993 where Purusottam express rammed into the stationary Kalandi express killing more than 300 odd individuals on that fateful night. Here the Uttarbanga express smartly rammed onto the stationed Vananchal express causing few bogies of Vananchal express fly out and land on the foot over bridge nearby. Unlike the Janeswari express incident though, the hands of Maoists or any sabotage is ruled out here, but still the whole thing is disturbing. It is more disturbing after hearing the whole sequence of events that leads to this collision as narrated in TV.

The scheduled departure of Vananchal express at Sainthia station is around 9 P.M in the evening, and the records suggests that the train did arrive at the station as per the scheduled time. It baffles me, if that is the case then what on earth made the authorities to keep the train stationed at the platform for more than 5 hours and let it go just around 2 P.M, seconds before the collision occurred? As expected, when the concerned authorities are far from giving any concrete answers to this mystery, few eyewitnesses claim the train was stationed as some vegetable vendors were busy unloading vegetables from the luggage van. Goodness me, are we talking about the Indian Railways or some personal property at the mercy of any one's disposal? If this is not good enough a reason to get you annoyed, then why was the Uttarbanga express, which has a scheduled stoppage at the said station travelling at a speed more than 80 kmph while entering the station is another mystery in itself. For sure it would take quite some doing to solve all these mysteries, counting the dead and writing consoling letters along with compensation pay cheques for the railways authorities.

Why are our railways so accident prone? Why do we have the worst railways minister of the world at the helm? Why aren't we learning anything from our past mistakes? Are we really serious in making our railways a bit more safer? There are enormous numbers of such uncomfortable questions for the railways authorities to answer - starting with Mamta didi and down. Our tracks are pathetic. We are still running with the mechanism of Mughal era installed by the Firangies. We do have perhaps the laziest and grossly underpaid set of track maintaining staff. No new technology is used to ensure passenger safety which other countries are using. Our tracks are as easy to sabotage as snatching a lollipop from a kid's hands. Last but not the least our authorities are more confused than a baby in a topless bar when asked to clarify on all these shortcomings. To top it all we have a railways minister who just doesn't want to shoulder her responsibilities and takes the railways as a stop gap arrangement for her and gives some time whenever she is free from her full time CPI bashing.

Have you ever marked the chap flashing that filthy green & red flags at stations whenever a train passes? When the world has moved ahead leaps and bounds in using technology for passenger safety we are still waving those handheld flags as a safety barrier. Where is that much touted anti collision mechanism that the Railway Ministry was boasting about few years ago? They boasted a lot, floated a tender and perhaps have eaten away a lot of public money in the process and conveniently slept over the whole issue. Ironically none questioned the subsequent development on that direction.

I was once fortunate enough to go to a routing cabin present at the starting of any station, where all signals are managed and so as the track alignment. Trust me the technology they use to make sure no wrong happens gave me a rude shock to say the least and made me wonder, if it is really judicious to travel in Indian Railways? In the name of technology what they have is a simple circuit board having the route map drawn on the surface with coloured LEDs all over it depicting the signal tower positions along the track. Would you believe the whole system is run by a single 8085 processor? The modus operandi is funnier even. All they have in the name of communication system is a telephone to get the info from the previous station whenever they let a train pass that station heading towards their station. Once these guys get that info, they get into their business of turning all the signal towers green to let the train pass through and turning them red once the train passes a particular tower so that any train coming from behind would stop looking at the red signal. Isn't it funny? Knowing the capability of 8085, it is very much a possibility that the said processor can give in at any given time and throw the whole system out of gear in a jiffy. More disturbing is the nature of all those switches used for operating the signal towers remotely. Would you believe the whole system operates on a simple 8 bit data transfer mechanism? I am not sure if they have improved in these years or not. Honestly the signal mechanism of the toy train system of Funschool is far superior than that of our railways.

Let me not talk about our tracks quality and physical safety that we deploy, as it is for any one to see and guess. I am sure for this latest accident yet another scapegoat in the form of either a lines man or a guard would be found with Mamta didi honouring us for few days and all would go to hibernation till the next accident occurs. In the meantime mothers would behave as if their sons are going to the front to fight a war or something, every time they travel in the railways and to thrash away any incoming danger, giving them a spoon full of Misiti Dahi before the journey begins (sometimes right on the platform). Conveniently as ever, Mamta didi would go back to her den to over see if all rifles and bullets are in store with required amount for her next round gun battle with the CPIM and we lesser mortals running around life insurance companies before we board the train. Jai Ho, indeed!

Fun is the next essential ingredient after Oxygen for this author. This chap is writing humor for quite some time without realizing that no one is reading. An IT coolie by profession he took to writing as he found Mayawati is not doing enough to balance out the daily dose of Humor needed by the human race. He could be found in all suspicious looking cyber spaces - From Orkut to Facebook, From Linkedin to Desibaba. The author can be reached via his Email which he invariably checks every 5 minutes (as he has nothing better to do). So if you are deprived of a big useless mail for sometime then just drop a test mail to this chap. You won't be disappointed. If you want a reply in double quick time then don't forget to add 'HOT PARTY GIRLS' or something like that somewhere in the subject line. Though he titled his blog as 'Being Cynical', regular readers feel, it should have been 'Occasionally Cynical, Mostly Mental'. P.S :- Befriending this human being is at the sole responsibility of the individual. It could bring unimaginable mental agony.
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