Pakistan once again came to the limelight for wrong reasons, as a coach in a train bound from Karachi to Rawalpindi was burst into flames, killing more than 73 people and injuring several others. The coach caught fire when a stove onboard exploded while breakfast was being cooked. As per provincial health minister Dr. Yasmin Rashid, “According to information reaching us from site of the accident, more than 65 people were killed and over 40 injured.”
Dr. Rashid further added that the wounded were rushed to hospitals in the nearby city of Bahawalpur and elsewhere in Rahim Yar Khan district and that only 18 of the bodies were identifiable. Local media reported that some of the passengers had been cooking breakfast when the cylinder exploded. This accident caught worldwide attention, and was important news item for the Indian media as well.
However on the other hand, an important factor was overlooked by the mainstream Indian media as they focused on the train accident in Pakistan. India remained virtually accident free. This year has also remained a year with almost negligible train accidents, a huge drop from the usual norm of at least 10-15 accidents per year. From a high of 2131 accidents in the early 60s, the number of train accidents have come down drastically under the able leadership of Piyush Goyal as the Railways Minister.
Unfortunately, no media channel so much as discussed, this important feat, possibly because as a nation we take safety for granted.
With a reduction of more than 94.8 percent, 2018-19 has been the safest year for the Indian Railways in terms of transportation. Given that the Indian Railways has historically been well notorious for frequent accidents, resulting in unfortunate deaths, an accident free year for Railways is a momentous occasion. According to the data as provided by Indian Railways, the number of fatalities has reduced significantly as well. From a staggering 658 deaths in 1981-82, to 37 in 2018-19, Indian Railways has seen a huge reduction of 94.4% in terms of the number of fatalities. Indian Railways scores 0.06 on the globally recognized safety measure Accidents Per Million Train Kilometers, a major success.
However, all of this didn’t happen overnight. Under the leadership of Piyush Goyal, who took over as the Railways Minister in 2017, Indian Railways has seen a massive overhaul in terms of safety. A Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh (RRSK) fund worth Rs. 1 lakh crore fund has been set up for safety expenditure over a period of five years. Expenditure on safety has gone up from Rs. 30,661 crore in 2009-10 to Rs. 74,696 crore in 2019-20.
Unmanned Level Crossings (UMLCs) have been completely eliminated as of now. 1,703 UMLCs were eliminated in the month of September 2018, which was higher than any other year. Railways have totally switched over to production of safer LHB coaches.
Since LHB coaches are safer than the ICF designed coaches, a total switch-over towards the production of LHB coaches is going to make rail travel substantially safer. There has also been substantial progress in rail renewal. In fact, there has been a 50% increase in rail renewal from 2,926 kms in 2013-14 to 4,405 kms in 2017-18.
It is strange that while our media never spares the Indian Railways for even the slightest of mistakes, it deliberately ignores to highlight every news about its massive improvement, and instead focuses on a train accident in Pakistan, which is itself on its way to oblivion.