People are now scared of travelling by train. The situation and the data that is now being revealed are horrifying. Train accidents and mishaps are taking place one after another and the Railway Ministry is not taking any concrete steps to address the problems. At present, there are 2.50 lakh posts vacant in the railways, out of which about 2 lakh are related to safety and security. Trains have been plying amid an acute shortage of employees like trackmen, technicians, station masters, loco pilots and even railway gangmen. About 70,000 posts are vacant in the department of track maintenance only.
The situation is explosive. It is not that the condition has suddenly worsened in the last one to two years. The situation has been deteriorating for a decade now. But Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu is busy showing people the positives of launching bullet trains while completely ignoring the basic problems and issues of the railways. The functioning of railways, consequently, is getting seriously affected.
There are 69 divisions of Indian Railways. Each division suffers from a shortage of manpower. If we consider only the Lucknow division of Northern railway, its 214-kilometre-long track needs to be changed since long because it is reportedly broken in many stretches. A 85-km-long stretch needs complete replacement. The situation is more or less the same in every division.
Shiv Pal of All India Railway Men’s Federation told National Herald that he had written a letter to Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on May 24, 2017 cautioning him that derailing of trains cannot be prevented because the situation is extremely serious.
Railways is presently grappling with the problem of lack of required material and employees. Only the railway employees know the stark reality of how the system is functioning. Whenever an accident occurs, lower rank employees face the brunt of it and are held responsible for the mishap. This entire policy is flawed, and for that the responsible people should be held accountable.
The federation is the biggest and the most powerful union of railway employees and nearly 10,000 employees are its members.
However, nobody knows when good sense will prevail upon Suresh Prabhu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Till then, crores of passengers will have to travel by train virtually depending solely on ‘Prabhu’s’ grace.