Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Accidental Railway Minister?!

The growing number of train accidents is disturbing the nation. May be, it would make us numb after some time if we keep hearing such news endlessly. I strongly believe they could be avoided to a great extent with the help of more responsible behavior and better laws. More so, because some railway stat says that 86% of the train accidents are caused by human error. On the other hand, someone clarifies that they are all system failures and not human errors. It is a very well known fact that both our systems and men are worse than those in other countries. So, I really don’t know which really causes all the troubles.

Irrespective of whatever it is, what comes out clearly is that the human lives are not valued by our governments as much as they are done in other parts of the world, may be, because they are too much in number. There is a dedicated page in Wikipedia to list down all the train accidents that happened in India. I don’t think any other country on earth has got such a page and a huge list in it. This is enough to prove how irresponsible our railways have been. Looking at the list, what I understand is that almost every year we have had a number of major accidents. And, especially in 2010, it has been too much.

Why 2010? The immediate thing that comes to my mind is that 2010 is the year that has given wings to the current railway minister’s chief ministerial aspirations. She is pulled between her priorities, between Bengal and Railways, between the responsibility entrusted upon her and the role she is dreaming of, between what is on hand right now and what is in mind of future. In the battle for supremacy what has won is her dream and what has lost is one of the world’s largest railway networks. I am more than convinced that she has failed miserably as our railway minister.

It’s time she resigns from her post as railway minister. I am one of the millions of people who want to see her as the chief minister of West Bengal throwing out the arrogant left front. But, I am not interested to see someone doing such a responsible job with no interest. So, it would be wise for her to accept moral responsibility for all failures in 2010 saying that most of her time goes into the issues of her own state, which is equally important for her and she can’t afford to ignore her people’s calls. She is on her way to becoming the chief minister of her state. That is the purpose of her journey. On the way, she has become a railway minister, which is accidental. But, that accident in her political career should not be a cause for many accidents.

She may be worried if her political rivals would take mileage out of this if she herself admits her failure. What I think is that if she doesn’t do this now and exit gracefully at the right time it would become very easy for her rivals to prove that she is only fit to shout in streets and is highly ineffective as an administrator. I am afraid if that is also true looking at the way the train accidents are happening with regular intervals. May be, Mamata the politician is more effective than Mamata the minister. How is she going to prove to her people that she would make a good chief minister then?

It would have been easy for Congress high command to throw her if she was a Congress member, like they did to Mr. Patil the home minister. But, unfortunately, she is the biggest ally in the coalition. So, they can’t afford to hurt her. They can’t do what they did to their home minister in the last innings to the railway minister in the current innings. But, it is required. A life lost due to the irresponsibility of any ministry is a life. I don’t have the data, but I think the lives lost in train accidents are more in number than the lives lost in terrorist attacks. What is under our control should be corrected first, right? I am sure the train accidents are more under our control than the terrorist attacks. May be, the losses are not highlighted as much as required, as there is no enemy here. We are our own enemies.

I don’t know what kind of punishment mechanism they have in railways in case of such failures. But, it has been proven repeatedly that they are not enough and they are far below the standards in effectiveness. No ground level action could prevent it forever. So, it is clear that we need to have strict laws to punish people at the top most level also. Only that would make them accountable to people. We would never lose anything by awarding such huge punishments. In a country of billion people, we have enough people to do their jobs in better ways.

Not just in railways, the law should become so strict that such failures in any ministry should bar its ministers from occupying any position of cabinet rank for a particular time period or forever. I have personally seen how much a driver suffers if he causes an accident ever in his career. If such tough punishments are possible for common men, why should it be not possible for these uncommon men and women? It might sound absurd now. You might say it is easier said than done. But, I am optimistic. Right to Information and Right to Education were absurd and “easier said than done” sometime back. They are reality today. So, if a government is committed to its people, anything should be possible!

Dr. Singh! I know you are committed!!

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