December 15, 2019
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Signal Is Green For The Guilty

The callousness, incompetence and criminal negligence in how this colonial legacy works would put even General Dyer of Jalianwala Bagh infamy to shame. Even after causing thousands of deaths in some of the world’s worst rail accidents, this public deparment has helped every guilty employee go scot-free.

Signal Is Green For The Guilty
Signal Is Green For The Guilty

Gaisal Train  Disaster
August 2, 1999

  • Deaths 400 The Brahmputra Mail, coming from Dibrugarh, crashed headlong into a stationary Guwahati-bound Avadh-Assam Express at Gaisal station in north Bengal after a signal error sent it on the same track
  • Inquiry A judicial inquiry fixed the responsibility on 19 officials. Questions about a possible terror angle were also raised, which the CBI later dismissed and framed charges against eight personnel.
  • Accountability Railway minister Nitish Kumar resigned owning moral responsibility. GM and DRM were suspended but reinstated later. The accused are out on bail and the case is still pending in courts.

Firozabad Collision
August 20, 1995

  • Deaths 358 The Purushottam Express, at 70 kmph, rammed into a ­stationary Kalindi Express from behind in Firozabad, UP
  • Inquiry The CRS reported signal failure and blamed the station master
  • Accountability The ASM and the switchman were suspended. While the switchman went missing soon after, the ASM was reinstated.

Khanna Train Collision
November 26, 1998

  • Deaths 212 The Jammu Tawi-Sealdah Express collided with six derailed coac­hes of the Golden Temple (Frontier) Mail near Khanna in Punjab
  • Inquiry In 2004, a judicial inquiry revealed the train ­derailed because of a rail fracture. It blamed the Directorate of Track Procurement for granting relaxations in production of rail steel and not providing ultrasonic flaw detection machines to the field staff.
  • Accountability R.K. Singh, Track Directorate in-charge during the period when norms were relaxed for procuring rails, retired from service unpunished

Photograph by PTI

Pukhrayan, Kanpur Derailment
November 20, 2016

  • Deaths 150 14 coaches of Indore-Patna Express derailed near Pukhrayan in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh
  • Inquiry The derailment happened because of a rail fracture. ­Investigative agencies claimed sabotage, blaming Pakistan spy agency ISI. A person arrested for it later claimed he was forced to confess under duress. The UP railway police did not find any traces of explosive but said the cause was “rail fatigue”.
  • Accountability With confusion over cause of accident, no officer has been held accountable yet.

Rafiganj Disaster
September 10, 2002

  • Deaths 140 The Railways’ showcase train Howrah Rajdhani Express derailed on a bridge over Dhave river in Rafiganj near Gaya, Bihar. 15 of the 18 coaches went off the track, two of them into the river.
  • Inquiry The CRS inquiry blamed it on rust and metal fatigue on the colonial-era bridge, causing the structure to shift which in turn led to the cracking of rails.  This bridge too was identified for repair earlier but nothing was done. A later inquiry brought in a sabotage angle, pointing to missing fish plates and blamed Maoists for it. Experts insisted the plates were dislodged after the derailment.
  • Accountability Conflicting findings created confusion and no officer was held responsible

Photograph by Getty Images

July 8, 1988

  • Deaths 105 Bangalore-Thiruvananthapuram Central Island Express derailed on Peruman bridge over Kerala’s Ashtamudi lake and 10 coaches fell into the water
  • Inquiry Remained inconclusive as a CRS inquiry blamed it on a tornado. Public outrage forced a second inquiry, which alleged a track alignment problem and faulty wheels of coaches.
  • Accountability None

Kadalundi Derailment
June 22, 2001

  • Deaths 57 Four coaches of the Mangalore-Chennai Mail train fell into Kadalundi river near Kozhikode in upstate Kerala, as it was crossing a bridge
  • Inquiry The CRS concluded that one of the pillars of the bridge had sunk because of heavy rainfall, causing an uneven kink in the track that broke when the train passed on it, causing the derailment. The bridge was 140-years-old and identified for rehabilitation a decade back. The findings remained controversial as it was argued that there could have been a problem with the train itself.
  • Accountability Officers from the construction department were questioned over the slow pace of bridge rebuilding despite the well-established need
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