Skip to main content

Strong railway, strong India. But do we care? (hehidu, )

In the early hours of November 23 in 1956, a train accident at Ariyalur, a town not very far from Thanjavur, killed 142 people and injured 110. Lal Bahadur Shastri, Railway Minister at the time, took moral responsibility for the mishap and resigned. Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister, forwarded his resignation to the President.

Sixty years later, on November 20 last year, a train accident near Kanpur killed nearly 150 people. And within 60 days, last Saturday, at least 40 passengers died when a train derailed in Andhra Pradesh. No one resigned, no heads rolled. Instead, fingers were pointed at Pakistan’s ISI and Maoists.

The truth is 60 years is long enough for those in power to grow a thick skin — and also for people to become insensitive to such tragedies. I mean, how does it matter to us if 100 or 150 die in a train accident somewhere in Kanpur or Odisha or wherever, as long as we were not travelling in the ill-fated train? Today, what matters to us is who said what — and not who did what.

Our world turns upside down if a has-been BJP leader called Vinay Katiyar says that his party boasts of prettier women than Priyanka Gandhi. We feel betrayed if Aamir Khan says that his wife thinks India has become unsafe for them to live. We find it funny when Rahul Gandhi announces at a public meeting that he, unlike Narendra Modi, wears a torn kurta. I can think of countless evenings when utterances by public and even not-so-public figures have made national headlines and sparked raging debates on social media.

Almost no one spared a thought for the 150 lives lost near Kanpur. The news was forgotten the day after. How did the accident happen? How could such accidents be prevented? Most importantly: what exactly is the Government doing to ensure safety of rail passengers? Questions like these — which matter because they concern human lives, including ours — are rarely asked. Since we don’t ask, we don’t get the answers and life goes on — until another few dozen lives are lost.

But CNN, in a detailed report, raised these questions after last Saturday’s accident in Andhra Pradesh. From the report, I got to know things that I should have known but didn’t: that India’s rail network runs 12,000 trains a day; that all the tracks, if joined into one single track, could circle the globe over one-and-a-half times; that 23 million passengers take the train daily, the equivalent of Australia’s population. It quoted former Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi as saying that the Indian railway system needed a generation change. It quoted a White Paper in which current Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu wrote that Indian Railways had suffered from considerable under-investment during the last few years.

The railway is one of the oldest and finest institutions of modern India: the 12,000 trains not only run, but run mostly on time, connecting the remotest corners of the country. Then why “considerable under-investment”? The apathy is evident from the fact that Indian Railways does not even have a brand ambassador, at a time when it has become fashionable for even Government departments to have a celebrity highlighting their work.

All those whose hearts beat for the soldiers on the border should ask themselves: how do the soldiers get there in the first place? No, soldiers don’t fly Air India or Indigo: they take the train. Strong railway, strong India. Let’s see what the 2017 Budget has in store for it.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

SC asks Centre to strike a balance on Rohingya issue (.hindu)

Supreme Court orally indicates that the government should not deport Rohingya “now” as the Centre prevails over it to not record any such views in its formal order, citing “international ramifications”.

The Supreme Court on Friday came close to ordering the government not to deport the Rohingya.

It finally settled on merely observing that a balance should be struck between humanitarian concern for the community and the country's national security and economic interests.

The court was hearing a bunch of petitions, one filed by persons within the Rohingya community, against a proposed move to deport over 40,000 Rohingya refugees. A three-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, began by orally indicating that the government should not deport Rohingya “now”, but the government prevailed on the court to not pass any formal order, citing “international ramifications”. With this, the status quo continues even though the court gave the community liberty to approach it in …

Khar’s experimentation with Himalayan nettle brings recognition (downtoearth)

Nature never fails to surprise us. In many parts of the world, natural resources are the only source of livelihood opportunities available to people. They can be in the form of wild shrubs like Daphne papyracea and Daphne bholua (paper plant) that are used to make paper or Gossypium spp (cotton) that forms the backbone of the textile industry.

Nothing can compete with the dynamism of biological resources. Recently, Girardinia diversifolia (Himalayan nettle), a fibre-yielding plant, has become an important livelihood option for people living in the remote mountainous villages of the Hindu Kush Himalaya.

There is a community in Khar, a hamlet in Darchula district in far-western Nepal, which produces fabrics from Himalayan nettle. The fabric and the things made from it are sold in local as well as national and international markets as high-end products.

A Himalayan nettle value chain development initiative implemented by the Kailash Sacred Landscape Conservation and Development Initiati…

The Chipko movement as it stands today

The idea behind the Chipko movement originated in early 1970s from Mandal, a village in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. Forty-three years later, Down To Earth travelled to Chamoli and Tehri Garhwal and spoke to the participants of this movement about its relevance today