“It’s like the vanishing point—that optical illusion where two parallel tracks appear to meet in the far distance but never do,” quite a line to begin with (To Kill A Passenger, Oct 16). But then the article derailed. Yes, the piece is well researched but it fails to criticise the railway’s current priorities. Instead of improving the present infrastructure so as to prevent frequent accidents, we are told that billions are being spent by the government on a ‘bullet train’ project! As for the Elphinstone station stampede, there are many more narrow, accident-prone footbridges in Mumbai. Will the authorities at least take this as a wake-up call?
In this country, it is so easy for the authorities to deflect blame. The instances pointed out in this article show how railway officials got away from being prosecuted because the blame for accidents was shifted to unresolved conspiracy theories—the Maoist angle, a terrorist attack!
It must have been the negligence of railway workers that would have caused many an accident. But, it is also true that they are an overworked and unappreciated lot. To this day the railways denies its drivers such basic amenities as air-conditioning and ergonomic seats; the thinking is that only uncomfortable drivers are alert drivers. On top of that is the tendency of railway ministers to curry favour with constituents by inaugurating fresh trains to their own home states and constituencies. Mamata Banerjee, now chief minister of West Bengal, was a particularly egregious offender in this regard. With more new trains and no proportional increase in staff, stressed drivers have to work under exhausting conditions, while rail lines that were never intended to bear the load of so many trains have to accommodate even more, and track inspection and repair officials have to do that much more work, and so all of them either make mistakes or cut corners.
Bill Purkayastha, On E-Mail
The standing committee on railways, while examining safety and security, had noted that more than half of the accidents are due to lapses on the part of railway staff. Such lapses include carelessness in working, lacklustre maintenance, adoption of shortcuts and non-observance of laid-down safety rules and procedures. The committee had recommended that a regular refresher course for each category of railway staff should be conducted. Unfortunately, even then the accidents are spiralling.
Seetharam Basaani, Hanamkonda
Despite the so-called modern signalling system, several incidents of head-on collision of trains on the same tracks have occurred. Officials simply accuse the staff members for every accident that occurs on the rails. Stringent measures have to be taken to avoid the accidents, the number and frequency of which have increased in recent times. Violating the rules and norms, a large number of people in India travel on trains by hanging out of doors and even sitting on the top of those coaches.
M.K. Somanatha Panicker, Alapuazha
The colonial-era Mumbai suburban railway infrastructure is cracking (The Same Old Track). Commuters bear the brunt stoically, perhaps adhering to the adage “that which cannot be cured has to be endured”. I have fallen on the platform thrice while boarding crowded locals on my way to office at Nariman Point from Borivli. Instead of going for the Rs 1.10 lakh crore Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train, I feel railways should introduce bullet trains (rather, their local cousins) on Churchgate to Dahanu Road and CSMT to Khapoli and Kasara routes after suitably upgrading the infrastructure. PM Narendra Modi’s dream project, which may cater to only business class passengers, is not a practical idea as rightly observed by NCP chief Sharad Pawar.
K.P. Rajan, Mumbai
The frequent news of train accidents has made commuters fearful. The details of the seven major rail accidents mentioned in your story show that the reason behind six of the accidents had been related to infrastructure while human failure was responsible for one. Rail fracture is the most common cause of accidents. The age-old tracks need a complete overhaul, the signalling system needs to be modernised with the latest technology and anti-collision systems need to be put in place. For decades, railway ministers have focused on populist measures and on introducing new trains from and to their home states ignoring the urgent need for modernisation. Though Suresh Prabhu tried to check the trend and focused on improvement of the system and passenger facilities, to his misfortune, successive train accidents forced him to leave the ministry. It has become necessary to freeze introduction of new trains till the infrastructure and operating system of railways are completely overhauled, modernised and suitably upgraded.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
Given the present condition, let’s hope bullet trains remain dreams for decades to come!
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
This is in reference to ‘Playboy Diary’ (October 16). Readers all over the world will miss Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, who recently died at the age of 91. Playboy and other so-called men’s magazines may face objections from India’s moral police because they contain erotic material in the form of pictures and write-ups, but one can find far worse on the internet. And those who are addicted to looking at semi-nudes suffer no deprivation in this country as the free supplements of several newspapers carry such pictures on a daily basis.
M. Kumar, New Delhi
This refers to A Prayer Sent Out Loudly by Dola Mitra (October 16). Showering sops, doles or concessions on a particular community, while not being committed to optimum changes on the ground, is not appeasement but tokenism—a ploy to garner maximum votes from a community by hoodwinking its members. Not all the promises made during election campaigns, or schemes announced by politicians after coming to power, see the light of day. Sanctioning a honorarium to Imams, giving Urdu second language status, housing for landless and homeless Imams and grants for madrasas, even if they are implemented, will not improve the socio-economic conditions of Muslims in general. Madrasas run in the old fashioned way, should be brought on par with public schools. Sops or grants should be aimed at the poorer and underprivileged sections, irrespective of religion and caste. The minorities and Dalits, as also others, badly need avenues for education and healthcare across West Bengal. Sops for Muslims are all talk and no walk. The apathy of the chief minister is well-known from responses to communal clashes in the past. Muslims demand equal opportunities, liberty, justice and the right to live peacefully, and not doles, which are only embarrassing them.
M.Y. Shariff, Chennai
Your section on the fuel of future cars (‘EV-olution’, Oct 16) covered fossil fuels, electric, hydrogen and hybrids, but there was nothing on solar-powered cars. With so much solar power available in our country, is there no company working on not-so-complicated and sustainable technology? If not, that would be surprising, as a solar-powered boat service has begun to operate even in the water bodies of Kerala.
Rajan George, Chennai
This is about the article on the recent mass shooting at a Las Vegas open air concert (Supervillain In Sin City, Oct 16). Gun-related crimes and mass shootings have become so regular and frequent in the US that this relentless barrage can turn America into one of the most insecure nations in the world. Why should everyone in the US have the right to bear arms on the streets in this age? Why should gun ownership laws be even negotiable? Innocent lives have indiscriminately been lost in the name of self-defence. Isn’t it really scary that anyone in a mall or a movie theatre may be carrying a gun, and can be insane enough to open fire? As long as gun lobbies like the NRA dominate American politics, no politician will dare take the risk of banning this rampant gun culture.
P.A. Jacob, Muscat
The article on the Las Vegas shooting and the following piece on the raging debate on what terrorism actually is (Ain’t No Terrorist, Oct 16) made me reflect on the curious situation. It’s galling to see the utter helplessness of the American political system in curbing the free availability of guns that makes it a child’s pay for any deranged man to kill his own countrymen. True to form, all President Trump did was to offer heartfelt condolences; true to his campaign promise, he did not speak a word against the gun lobby.
P.L. Singh, On e-mail
This is apropos P.A. Krishnan’s review of the book Empire by Devi Yesodharan (History’s Forgotten Nuts, Oct 9). Why worry so much about whether the book meets the definition of the historical novel or not? Isn’t it important that the characters are engaging and that the author has written it with a light, eminently readable touch? Add to it the pithy, throwaway philosophical lines and you have a book worthy of taking with you on a vacation, though I was a bit let down by the ending. At least that is what matters for me, not definitions.
Ganpati C., On e-mail
Sexual harassment warrants sensitive treatment from the authorities, who should show empathy to the affected girl students instead of taunting them and accusing them (The BHU Model, Oct 9). Calling the police inside a university campus and allowing them to beat up protesting students was a horrible decision on the part of the BHU administration. One wonders why the vice-chancellor did not have any dialogue with the victims. His approach was totally devoid of compassion and support. Students of Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi University, Rajasthan and few more varsities have already rejected the retrograde policies of the saffron party on their campuses. It is high time the saffron party sensed the ground realities.
S.D., On e-mail
This refers to your story on the violence at Banaras Hindu University (‘Police chased us into our hostel rooms. We want an apology from the V-C’, Oct 9). The BHU issue was ineptly handled for partisan ends. Women were beaten up by male policemen. Why weren’t women policemen deployed —given the gender of the protesters? The other takeaway is that politics should be kept out of V-C appointments so that they don’t curry favour with political parties.
Vimal Kumar, Hyderabad
Yes, Pankaj Tripathi is indeed a great actor, a natural (The Fireworks of a Shadow Dancer, Oct 16). I have had the privilege of working with him, and I look forward to many more.
Mazahir Rahim, On E-Mail
Your story on the RSS and India’s overtures to Kashmiris (Saffron Ambivalence, Oct 16) is not ambivalent at all with regard to who the real boss is. It confirms the known fact that the control buttons of the BJP government are with the RSS. In the past three-and-a-half years, the situation in Kashmir has gone from bad to worse and terrorist activities continue unabated. The BJP, coalition partner of the PDP, does not seem to have a clear-cut strategy for restoring normalcy in the Valley. They seem to depend more on political rhetoric, with the sole objective of getting some brownie points, than initiating a meaningful dialogue with all the stakeholders. Bold statements by the government on “unconditional dialogue with the affected parties” have been made irrelevant by the strong disapproval of the Sangh parivar, leaving both the PDP and the BJP red-faced. Whether one agrees with Mohan Bhagwat’s stand or not, one cannot deny that his critical comments on some of the BJP’s actions are unequivocal, causing considerable embarrassment to the BJP seniors. The party brass would be well-advised to do more thorough homework in future, including taking the Sangh bosses into confidence, to avoid such foot-in-the-mouth situations that severely dent their image and credibility.
Shailendra Dasari, Bellary
It pains me to bring to your notice that on August 14 this year, your website published a speculative article on the demise of my son Mr Vikrant Nagaich, a 3rd year student at NLU Jodhpur, under tragic circumstances which are still being investigated by the police. Even the name of the deceased has been spelt incorrectly and is indicative of the lack of any serious fact corroboration in the reporting. Speculative words to the effect that “Vikrant was under depression” were used. Vikrant was under no such condition and it hurts the entire family as well as friends and community to see such words in print. This report is completely baseless and tantamount to rumour-mongering. At such a stage casting aspersions on a deceased person with no medical evidence is unethical. We urge you to retract this article.
Col Jayant Kumar, On E-Mail
RESPONSE: The article has been retracted. We are sorry for the pain it caused you and other family members. Stories under the online news scroll are auto-generated directly from news agencies. Outlook is not responsible for the veracity of these stories.
This refers to your story on private schools (The Jury Is Still Out, Oct 9). The writer clearly brings out how education has become a money-minting industry, where education sits on the last bench. The land of guru-shishya relations has been transformed into an education mall and it is appalling to hear principals of the high-end schools being called CEOs. It is the government’s responsibility to make sure all schools adhere to some minimum standards.
U.R. Raj, Siliguri
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