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Tracks To Nowhere
The Railways Safety Commission's administrative control rests with the Civil Aviation Ministry. India has 51,340 railway bridges that were built in the 19th century and are well past their usable age. As on March 31, 1999, 334 bridges were in the 'distressed' category, with the northern zones alone accounting for 209. In 1989, a committee had recommended the scrapping of the Kadalundi bridge. It collapsed last fortnight, killing more than 50 people. India still relies on divers for underwater bridge inspection, but they can only detect superficial cracks. The equipment and expertise needed to detect internal flaws is still not available here. Defecation on the railway tracks makes it difficult for the staff to carry out even routine inspections.