Q. What are the primary causes contributing to train accidents in India? Highlighting the expert committee's recommendations propose effective measures that can be implemented to address these causes and enhance the safety and reliability of India's railway network. (250 words)07 Jun, 2023 GS Paper 3 Disaster Management
- Introduction: Briefly introduce the answer by giving recent incidents of train accidents in India
- Body: Mention the primary causes of accidents and way forward measures citing various committee’s recommendations.
- Conclusion: Summarize the key points and conclude with a forward-looking approach
Train accidents are a major concern for India's railway network, which is one of the largest and busiest in the world. According to data from the Ministry of Railways, there were more than 1,000 train accidents in India between 2009 and 2019, resulting in 1,800 deaths. A recent accident in Odisha where three train collided claimed lives of more than 275 people.
Some of the primary causes contributing to train accidents in India are:
- Human errors: Failures on the part of the railway crew, such as negligence, shortcuts, and disregard for safety rules and procedures, are the primary cause of train accidents in India. For example, in 2016, a train derailment near Kanpur killed 150 people due to negligence by the loco-pilot (train operator) who overshot a signal.
- Unmanned level crossings: Unmanned level crossings (UMLCs) are places where railway tracks cross roads without any barriers or signals to regulate traffic. UMLCs continue to be one of the leading causes of rail accident fatalities. In 2018-19, UMLCs accounted for 16% of all train accidents.
- Signaling failures: Signaling failures can lead to trains running on the wrong track, colliding with other trains or stationary objects, or overshooting stations. For instance, in 2021, a signal failure caused a train collision near Mathura that killed around 25 people.
- Infrastructural defects: Train accidents can also be caused by defects in the tracks, bridges, overhead wires, or rolling stock (coaches and wagons) that compromise the safety and reliability of the railway network. Infrastructure defects can result from poor maintenance, ageing, vandalism, sabotage, or natural disasters. For example, in 2017, a train derailment near Muzaffarnagar killed 23 people due to a crack in the track.
To address these causes and enhance the safety and reliability of India's railway network, some of the recommendations made by various committees are:
- Kakodkar Committee (2012):
- Creating a statutory Railway Safety Authority
- Setting up a non-lapsable Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh (RRSK) of Rs. 1 lakh crores over five years for safety works
- Eliminating unmanned level crossings
- Adopting advanced technologies for track maintenance and inspection
- Improving rolling stock design and quality
- Improving human resource development and management
- Ensuring independent accident investigation
- Bibek Debroy committee (2014):
- Delegating more powers to the zonal and divisional levels
- Allowing private entry and competition in rail services
- Rationalizing passenger fares and freight charges
- Creating a holding company for all railway PSUs
- Separating railway budget from general budget
- Outsourcing non-core activities
- Creating a Railway Infrastructure Authority of India
- Vinod Rai Committee (2015):
- Establishing an independent Railway Safety Authority with statutory powers to oversee and regulate safety matters.
- Setting up a Railway Accident Investigation Board to conduct independent and impartial inquiries into accidents.
- Creating a separate Railway Infrastructure Company to own and maintain railway assets such as tracks, bridges, signaling systems, etc.
- Introducing a performance-linked incentive scheme for railway employees based on key performance indicators.
- Implementing zero-based budgeting and accrual accounting systems to improve financial management and transparency.
- Leveraging information technology and data analytics to improve decision making and service delivery.
Addressing train accidents in India requires a multi-faceted approach including improving human resources, upgrading infrastructure, investing in modern rolling stock, implementing advanced safety technologies, and establishing robust safety management systems. By doing so, India can enhance the safety and reliability of its railway network, reducing the occurrence of train accidents and ensuring the well-being of passengers and railway personnel.
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