H C Singh

Train Disasters and Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee

Throughout her tenure as Railway Minister in UPA government, Mamata Banerjee, leader of Trinamool Congress of West Bengal has done nothing to streamline Railways functioning and prevent the possibility of accidents. All these years she has been busy with West Bengal policies to become ultimately the Chief Minister. She has many times skipped attending crucial cabinet meetings even when in Delhi.

In the latest train disaster in Sainthia that occurred at 1:50 AM on July 19, 2010 in which 66 unfortunate passengers lost their lives and more than 100 got injured, many seriously. But Railway Minister reached after 7 hours at 9 AM. Had Mamata given instructions to send rescue teams and relief trains promptly many lives could have been saved as many seriously injured could be sent to nearby hospitals for emergency treatment. But Mamata Banerjee simply and spontaneously blamed CPI and CPM for conspiracy. It is apparent that both time and money, as a cabinet minister of government of India she used for her personal benefit. Instead of serving efficiently as a railway minister, Mamata from day one indulged in West Bengal politics, first to win corporation elections, which she won. Thereafter she has been busy in wooing public for forthcoming state assembly elections so as to realize her ambition of becoming CM of West Bengal. Central Government kept quiet because support of Trinamool MP’s was essential for UPA Government to survive. So Mamata had her way.

Now about a number of train disasters, and mishaps during Mamata’s Mamata’s tenure as Railway Minister. There have been two horrible accidents in two months of June and July 2010 besides seven other comparatively minor accidents, a total of nine accidents during the span of one year between 2009 and 2010. Yet there have been two more instances on July 20 when prestigious Rajdhani Express was about to meet twice serious accidents when like Sanitha train tragedy as the coupling connecting the engine to the train broke. Why? Where were the technicians and engineers to check whether coupling was strong enough or well connected? Though the coupling was attached to the train in 3 hours by the engineers, the Rajdhani train had hardly covered 25 Km that the coupling again gave way and the engine decoupled again. Ultimately another engine was brought from Mughalsarai, Rajdhani to resume journey. Passengers were lucky that there was no train coming from one side or the other to hit their Rajdhani. But what can be said about Railways efficiency or carelessness?

To recollect, long back when Lal Bahadur shastri was Railway Minister in Pandit Nehru’s Cabinet there occurred a Railway accident. Promptly, Shastri accepted moral responsibility for the mishap and resigned as Railway minister. Mamata should have realized that gravity of first major railway disaster on May 29,2010, when Maoists tempered with railway line killing 148 passengers. But our Railway Minister instead of taking prompt remedial action blamed the West Bengal DGP and Police. Similarly in the Saithia accident she promptly blamed CPI and CPM instead of initiating action to fill important crucial vacancies. It is reported that “there are around 98000 sanctioned posts for railway drivers who operate about 17000 trains daily on the Indian Railway network. There are 26000 vacancies out of then 14000 for assistant loco pilots alone”, said shiva Gopal Mishra general secretary of Northern Railway men’s Union.

In addition there are 85,100 safety related posts lying vacant as per CAG’s report. CAG castigated “railways had failed to show any improvement in signaling and telecommunication systems.” Had steps been taken to improve the vital safety measures, these disasters could be averted. Why lakhs of posts in railways are lying vacant when there is so much unemployment and so urgent a need for filling these parts?

It is reported that many files are piling up on Railway ministers table, some important files lying on her table for months because Mamata Banerjee is not available or attending office. Tenders beyond the value of Rs 100 crore even for the purchase of safety equipment cannot be issued without her approval and signatures. So there has been inordinate and unforgiveable delay in the purchase of safety equipment during Mamata Banerjee’s ministership.

Mamata did nothing to get at least crucial vacancies filled and essential equipment purchased since she became Railway Minister by her own choice. It is still high time that instead of being known as absentee railway minister Mamata gracefully quits or relinquishes railway portfolio, so that there are no further train disasters and loss of hundreds of lives.

July 23, 2010 - Posted by | Corruption, India, Indian Economy, Political Commentary, Politics | , , , , , ,

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