EDITORIAL | 60 died, but nobody is responsible?

EDITORIAL | 60 died, but nobody is responsible?

Celebrations on an auspicious day turned into tragedy when over 60 people were run over by a speeding train in Amritsar on Friday. Many more are being treated in hospitals, and some of them are in critical condition. The accident occurred when Dussehra revellers watching the burning of Ravana’s effigy on a ground near the railway track moved back, on a request from the organisers of the event, on to the rails, to be mowed down by the train. None of those who were involved in the event in various ways is ready to accept responsibility for the deaths. A mutual blame-game immediately started between the district administration and the railways. Accidents do not happen by themselves. There are one or more reasons or lapses that lead to accidents, and underlying them there is always a lack of the sense of safety and violation of rules and protocols. This was the case in Amritsar, too. 

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The organisers of the event did not take permission from the administration to hold the event. But the administration knew about the event in which the chief guest was the wife of state minister Navjot Singh Sidhu. It should have taken the necessary safety precautions and steps as it was an annual event and the venue was close to the railway tracks. The railways have said that they have no responsibility because the revellers were not passengers and had trespassed into railway property. They have refused to institute the usual statutory inquiry, though the state government has ordered a magisterial probe. They have also said that they were not informed about the event. However, there is also the view that the driver and the gate-man should not have missed the blaze which was close to the tracks. 

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Truth is, all of them are responsible, to a greater or lesser extent, for the tragedy through some action or inaction. The railways have a poor record of safety and India tops the world in train accidents and casualties. About 600 train accidents have taken place in the country in the last five years and thousands of people have lost their lives. Though safety should be the first priority of the organisation it often takes backseat. Unmanned crossings, poor maintenance of tracks and equipment and lack of investment in modernisation are some reasons for the high accident rate. There is poor accountability, too. The railways should realise that whatever be the cause of an accident it is a blot on the organisation. Millions of people who travel by trains pay for their safety and the railways should not fail them. 

READ: Had rules been followed, many would have lived