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Is safety on wheels finally being guaranteed?

Wednesday, 9 July 2014 - 7:45am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: Zee Research Group

The issue of train accidents and passenger safety was addressed by railway minister Sadananda Gowda on Tuesday with a slew of measures slated to be implemented. But are these measures good enough as per the high-level committee on safety benchmark, is the question.

A Zee Research Group (ZRG) analysis shows that this railway budget for a change has indeed focused on a few points recommended by the high-level committee on safety.

In February 2012, the high-level Safety Review Committee headed by Dr Anil Kakodkar had said that unmanned level crossings persistently led to accidents resulting in huge casualties. Gowda's first railway budget has proposed complete elimination of unmanned level crossings.

"Indian Railways has 30,348 level crossings, out of which 11563 are unmanned. Each unmanned crossing is being examined in detail and, depending on the site condition, action will be taken to eliminate it by suitable modality," the minister said.

Besides this, the minister also adhered to the Kakodar committee recommendation for usage of modern technologically driven vehicle borne ultrasonic testing machine for faster and reliable detection of rail and weld flaws. "Indian Railways proposes to use modern Vehicle Borne Ultrasonic Flaw Detection System to detect rail and weld fractures. In addition, Ultrasonic Broken Rail Detection System (UBRD) will also be tried at two locations as a Pilot Project," he said.

Gowda also proposed usage of automatic closing of doors, both in main line and in sub-urban coaches.

ZRG analysis based on Lok Sabha questions answered on February 6, 2014 also shows that women Railway Police Force (RPF) merely constitute 2% of the sanctioned RPF and 25% of the overall sanctioned RPF seats are vacant. This obviously shows flaws in railway safety services.

To bridge this gap, Gowda announced that 17,000 RPF constables have been recruited and would be deployed soon. He also proposed the recruitment of 4,000 women RPF constables.

According to railway ministry report, 54 rape cases were reported in 2013, which were higher than 47 cases reported in 2012. Ensuring safety in this regard, the minister announced that with the induction of women RPF constables, coaches for women will be escorted. Additional care will be taken of women travelling alone in all classes.

RPF escorting teams in trains will be provided mobile phones so that passengers can contact them when in distress. The security helpline will also be augmented.

Frequent occurrence of railway accidents has also been taken care of in this budget and Simulation Centre to study causes of accidents has been proposed.

Safety of elderly and handicapped was also promised with provision for new foot over bridges, escalators, and platform shelters, battery operated cars and toilets at all major stations through PPP route.

The budget also opened a whole new era of food safety-health and hygiene. Railways has proposed setting up of food courts at major stations, option of ordering food through SMS, ready-to-eat meals and RO drinking water at stations. CCTVs will also be used at stations for monitoring cleanliness at railway stations.

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