Home Views & Opinions Train disaster – A case of sheer negligence

Train disaster – A case of sheer negligence

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6 June was another darkest day in the history of Pakistan when more than 65 innocent lives were lost besides injuring over 100 with 10 in serious condition due to train accident of Sir Syed Express that rammed in to derailed train of Millat Express near Daharki. What followed after the accident was most disgusting and painful deplorable attitude displayed by sides, the government ministers and opposition leaders accusing and blaming each other instead feeling ashamed. Now the reports are pouring in from various functionaries accepting that the track was in dangerous condition. Chairman Pakistan Railways says he knew the track was in poor condition in Sukkur Division. Minister Azam Swati says track of Sukkur Division was extremely dangerous, DS Sukkur said he refused to pass trains three days ago. Now after all these confessions do we really need an inquiry to be held to find out why accident took place? DS, Chairman Railway has the authority to stop movement of trains if the track is not fit. Since the higher command of railway accepts that the condition of track was poor that means it was unfit for movement than why the trains were not suspended pending repair of the track? This tantamount to total negligence and carelessness on the part of railway authorities that resulted in such huge human lives. How on earth opposition is being blamed for the accident? For God sake doesn’t throw salt on the wounds, this is time for healing.
Before making further comments this is acknowledged fact that when British freed the sub continent by creating two independent states they left behind the best four systems. Railway Network, Irrigation System, Road Network and Postal System. We not only failed to maintain these properly but systematically destroyed all of them and no effort was made to further develop and maintain it properly. We established good healthy traditions to fight amongst each other, accuse each other carry out loot and plunder thus neglected the poor people preferring over own comforts. It must be stated that train journey has been the best mode of transport in 60 to 80’s. Presidents, Prime Ministers, Defence Ministers, Railways ministers etc would travel by train. They had beautifully decorated VIP special saloons with highest standard of maintenance it was pride of Pakistan Railways. The fact remains all successive governments are responsible for the poor up keep of railway track. There was a time when there used to be regular maintenance of tracks but gradually things started deteriorating. Gradually we collectively have damaged all the institutions so Railways should not be seen in isolation. Over the years a new system is in place that boils down to “Make me work- If you can”.
What has appeared in the press from the statements of senior officials of the Railways and the minister they all knew the condition of track that was really in bad shape and Chief Engineer Railways expressed fears while writing to DS Sukkur that why he was risking the lives and must undertake urgent repairs. Therefore they all collectively are responsible for this accident for not suspending the train service when the track was in most dangerous condition? This must be answered; blame game should not come in way to reach to conclusion. Dead are gone never to return, but at least we can learn from our avoidable blunders. It is pity that a very small amount of 1.5 million has been announced by Railway as compensation. Government should review its decision and increase the amount to at least 5 million as well as provide job to one person from the grieved family.
Now some valid questions that must be answered by the Ministry of Railways. Once the derailment takes place, the immediate task of the train Guard is to inform the station masters of UP and DOWN stations and controller of Railways so that all trains from both sides is stopped. All trains are equipped with wireless sets and staff members all have mobile phones. Was this SOP followed? In case the train Guard fails to inform the nearby stations then he has to fix Red Flag at a distance to forewarn the driver of incoming trains. Did anything of this kind happen? There will be many more questions that would be asked. Irrespective of this tragedy the fact remains that the entire responsibility rests with the railway officials who failed to take appropriate and timely measures to ensure old track is replaced. Another question that arises out of this accident that what safety measures were taken after previous accidents that have been taking place with regular interval. This reminds us another tragic train accident that happened on 4 Jan 1990 near Sangi Railway Station near Pano Aqil in which more than 300 people died. It is not question of patches of railway track that need replacement but the entire network from Karachi to Peshawar needs overhauling. Let us not wait completion of CPEC projects (M-1) that is doubling of track between Karachi Lahore and Peshawar it will take years but put right existing system so that no future derailments take place.