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EditorialYet another mishap

Yet another mishap

Date:

Yet another mishap

Train accidents in are unfortunately regular. Sunday morning, a derailment just outside Kanpur has left more than 145 dead and around twice that number injured.

India's train network is vast, the fourth largest in the . Every day, it carries 23 million people the length and breadth of the subcontinent. Yet it has been sadly neglected, at considerable cost, both in terms of lives lost and in terms of lost potential. Statistics show that 81,038 people have lost their lives due to trespassing on railway tracks and 346 while crossing unmanned line crossings between 2012 and 2016. Another 392 died in train accidents during the same period. By any standards this is a whopping figure.

Given India's size, rail remains the best way of moving people and products over vast distances, to a regular timetable. But the network needs much more investment. It also accounts for six per cent of the total employment in the organised sector directly and an additional 2.5 per cent indirectly. But the dubious distinction of ignoring safety has sullied Railways' image.

Elsewhere, the derailment of Indore-Patna Express is the first major accident after the introduction of an extremely low-cost travel insurance scheme. Under the ‘optional travel insurance' scheme passengers (or their kin) can receive up to Rs 10 lakh in payouts if they pay a premium of less than a rupee. Despite the extremely low cost of insurance, only 128 of the 695 passengers on the train opted for the insurance.

Clearly, it makes sense for a democratic country to move away from the monarchical, patronising ex gratia system to an insurance system that upholds the dignity of the passenger, allows individuals to decide how much they value their own lives and create incentives for railways to improve safety. Given that only around 20 per cent of the passengers availed of the low cost insurance scheme suggests that people have to be educated on the importance of insurance.

For the five years to 2019, India intends to spend US$ 132 billion on rail infrastructure – a vast sum, but it comes after years, even decades, of underinvestment, and at a time when that other Asian behemoth China is already far ahead. Take one example: just this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreed a deal with Japan to build a bullet train from Mumbai to Ahmedabad. Yet China already has thousands of miles of high-speed rail and more than a thousand high-speed trains running every day.  Critics have pointed out the total cost will be more than the entire for three years. This at a time when many remote areas are still not connected to the creaking rail system at all. Suresh Prabhu, the Railway Minister, has his hands full.

Northlines
Northlines
The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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