Tuesday’s train accident in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh occurred as the Bangalore-bound Hampi Express jumped the signal at Penukonda station. Reportedly, the stationary goods train was hit from behind by the incoming Hampi Express. Two coaches of the passenger train derailed, with the first derailed coach engulfed in a blaze.
Announcement of compensation and ex-gratia offers quickly followed, but then, do people travel to get compensation — howsoever ‘worthy’ it may be? Train mishaps claim several lives every year. As many as 1,220 persons lost their lives in the last five and a half years. Mishaps which occurred at unmanned level crossings account for 717 deaths — 59 per cent of the total. Deaths due to unmanned level crossing were 146 in 2006-07, 148 in 2007-08, 129 in 2008-09, 170 in 2009-10 and 124 in 2010-11.
The number of people killed was highest in 2010-11 — with 374 deaths—- which incidentally was also the highest death toll numbering 239 due to train collisions.
Preventive measures however have been hard to come by, what with poor safety standards in the world’s second largest train network. The losses due to these mishaps too have been colossal. Not many are aware that the annual loss due to mishaps amount to Rs 100 crore. About Rs 45 crore is lost by way of damage to bogies, Rs 15 crore by damage to tracks and 20 crore by interruption of trains. In 2007-08 the loss due to rolling stock and permanent way (railway track) was Rs 29.70 crore and Rs 10.85 crore respectively, while in 2008-09, it was Rs 50.12 crore and 10.52 crore respectively. The loss to rail traffic was Rs 43.80 crore in 2007-08 where it was Rs 14.20 in year 2008-09.
Taking into account this monetary loss, the Railways maintain only those mishaps which claim human life for records, and yet hundreds of accidents which occur every year without any loss of life cause immense monetary loss. The real picture of loss remains elusive because the amount given to the victims of accident, which runs in crores, is not included as loss to the Railways.
Notwithstanding recurring train mishaps, the Railways is yet to install the much needed Train Protection and Warning System (TPWS) — an advanced European technology on identified routes to prevent accidents. At an estimate of about Rs 50 lakh per km, the TPWS technology ensures automatic application of emergency brakes in case the loco driver jumps the red signal.
Safety evidently is not on the priority list of the Railways. Over a thousand technical vacancies still lie unoccupied. The Comptroller and Auditor General has observed that though sufficient funds were available, large number of road over bridge (ROB) and road under bridge (RUB) works were pending and the actual budget allocations reflected low priority due to inadequate commitment by the Railways. Construction of these is imperative to eliminate the risk involved in unmanned level crossings — one of the major reason for train accidents.
Is the monopoly by the Railways leading to a lax situation on security? While the Railways seem to have mastered rescue and relief operations following accidents, it has not met with much success when it comes to accident prevention. The safety drive, for which the Indian Railways secured massive funding in the 10th and 11th Plans, needs a review to identify the grey areas, besides stepping up its maintenance record. The political stewardship of the Railway Ministry also ought to be questioned.
‘The Beautiful Game’ in Goa
Maverick Vivian Martins
In Goa football is not ‘just-a-game’, football is a religion. It is what Goans turn to when things go sour in their lives. It is no secret to anyone who knows Goa, that football is the addictive drug of the Goan people. When football was declared the official sport of Goa, every football fan rejoiced. But in truth, football still has a long way to go at least in Goa. The Goa Football Association (GFA) needs to get its act right. They seem to be talking about grassroots development, but very little has been done to really promote football at the grassroots. The teams which participate in the age group tournaments will agree that the GFA is ill-prepared when it comes to organizing these tournaments. The format itself has a lot of flaws, with teams divided into zones which keep changing. A team practices throughout the year just to play three matches and in some cases, there is a strong possibility that a team can be out of the tournament on goal difference. The tournaments are organised in such a haphazard manner that no team participating in the age group tournament knows when the tournament will start. The GFA never sticks to its original schedule and the date and grounds keep changing every match to suit the bigger clubs. In between there are long breaks, and the scheduling of the matches is done in a way that suits the GFA without taking the teams and players into consideration. On most occasions teams play 3 matches in a week which is practically impossible for the young legs to take. At the same time the referees also always tend to support the bigger teams. One of the worst setbacks that the beautiful game faces today in Goa is that games are now won and lost based on the capricious judgment of referees, and their wildly changing approach to the rules. The sinister motive ascribed to the referees by some is going to destroy the sport especially youth development. One has to watch a match in order to know how poor the officiating is in Goa. Something needs to be done to eradicate this problem and the grassroots. The one who knows the laws of the game should respect the fact that referee’s decision is final. But how can one digest the fact that a referee comes on the field with a biased approach and a fixed mindset to kill the beautiful game?
The GFA is failing in its duties. The GFA seem to be ruining the game in this State. I hope that the Goa Football Development Council does something to clean the mess. It’s time everyone associated with football raises its voice against the GFA and hold them accountable for the state of affairs.