The Odisha train tragedy on Friday left at least 288 people dead and 1000 injured after accident of three trains.
Following the incident, questions have been raised over safety of Indian Railways. In this context, a report on the derailment in Indian Railways by Comptroller and Auditor General of India has come into the spotlight.
The audit report covered the incidents between April 2017 and March 2021. In the report, which was tabled in Parliament in December 2022, the CAG had highlighted several concerns over safety of the railways and various shortcomings in the works of Indian Railways.
So What Did The CAG Report Say?
According to the report, analysis of 1129 inquiry reports on derailments in Indian Railways showed that 23 factors were responsible for the accidents, which caused a loss of around Rs 33 crore. Most of the derailment accidents were attributed to the Engineering Department, with maintenance of tracks emerging as the major factor for the accidents.
The report also found that there was a 30-100 per cent shortfall in inspections of structural and geometrical condition of tracks by Track Recording Cars. The in-built monitoring mechanism of Track Management System, a web based application for tracking maintenance activities, was also found non-operational.
There was also a shortage of staff required for maintenance of tracks, the report said. It added, “This revealed that required steps were not taken for adequate staffing in safety category, which can impact quality of maintenance.”
The report also raised concerns about utilisation of a special fund created to improve safety of Indian Railways.
Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh (RRSK) was announced by the Finance Minister during the budget for financial year 2017-18. The fund had the corpus of Rs 1 lakh crore over a period of five years, with annual outlay of Rs 20,000 crore. For the fund, Railways had to contribute Rs 5,000 crore in the annual corpus for each financial year.
According to the CAG report, RRSK was created with the mandate of funding critical safety works, including works of renewal, replacement and augmentation of assets.
However, CAG found that due to adverse internal resource position, Railways failed to meet the desired contributions for four financial years: 2017-18, 18-19, 19-20 and 20-21. Overall, there was a Rs 15,775 crore deficit in funding by the Railways. According to the report, the Standing Committee on Indian Railways observed, “The purpose of RRSK is gradually being eroded due to non-appropriation of required funds from internal resources of Railways.”
The CAG report also noted that there was an increase in utilisation of funds for non-priority works which was “against the guiding principles of RRSK fund deployment framework”.
In its recommendations for Indian Railways, the CAG report noted that it should ensure timely implementation of track maintenance activities by using improved technologies. The report also added that the funds under RRKS should be deployed for meeting the requirements of high-priority works.