‘Casual attitude to safety’: After Odisha accident, editorials demand accountability from railways

Telegraph said the ‘lack of clarity in the wake of a monumental tragedy is distressing’.

WrittenBy:NL Team
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In the wake of the horrific train accident in Odisha, multiple newspapers published editorials on lessons that need to be learned – and why the railways must prioritise safety.

The Hindu’s editorial today said the three-train collision is a “tragic reminder of the challenges that India faces in modernising and expanding its rail services”. It said an accident of this kind had been “foretold” as recently as February when a similar collision was averted in Mysuru.

“Accidents per million train kilometre have fallen over the last decade,” the editorial said, “but poor maintenance of tracks and the rolling stock and overstretched staff are problems that the railways can no longer camouflage with glitzy facades.” 

The Indian Express yesterday published an editorial on similar lines. “How will responsibility be fixed, will this tragedy prompt structural changes, if needed, and, most significantly, what will be the learnings from this?” it asked.

The newspaper said the inquiry into the accident “should be comprehensive, thorough and independent” and “promptly put forth into the public domain for wider discussion and analyses”. After all, “infrastructure upgrade means little if it doesn’t mean an upgrade in the quality of life – and its safety.”

The headline of the Times of India’s editorial on June 5 asked why safety wasn’t “front and centre” for the railways even after warnings from the CAG and a parliamentary standing committee. Both had “repeatedly flagged problems” showing the railways “fell short of safety standards when benchmarked against its internal protocols”. The Indian Express had flagged the CAG’s reports too in its editorial.

“Between 2016-17 and 2020-21, derailments constituted 75% of consequential train accidents and collisions another 5%,” the TOI editorial said. “Notwithstanding that, the railway minister has been lax about following its own protocol on inspections and track renewals.”

Now with the government aiming to “increase the average speed of trains”, TOI asked, “Is this aim consistent with the railways’ casual attitude to safety?”

The Telegraph had an editorial today too, with this opening sentence: “There is blood on India’s train tracks.” It said railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw had claimed to have identified the “criminals” responsible for the June 2 tragedy. Why then had the railway board recommended a CBI investigation?

“It is all a bit mysterious,” the editorial said. “The lack of clarity in the wake of a monumental tragedy is distressing. The government owes the nation some clear answers. It must also assure citizens that the prospects of a repetition of such a tragedy would be minimised. That hate-mongers are eager to give a communal twist to a catastrophe also speaks of the degeneration in New India’s zeitgeist.”

Newslaundry had reported on this “communal twist”, where social media posts suggested members of the Muslim community were purportedly involved in the accident. It was a bogus claim, as we found. Read the report here.

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