With the Utkal train derailment, the safety of the Indian Railways is being questioned yet again. Data from the last thirteen years shows that the number of people who died in train derailments has been the highest in the three years since the BJP came to power in 2014.
Data Source: Rajya Sabha Question 3473
A rising trend can also be seen in the number of train derailments since 2014. A total of 196 people died last year, the highest in a decade. This year, the number of people who died in derailments is 62, with a quarter of the year still left.
Despite Rs. 19,000 crore from a railway safety fund being allocated for spending this year, the number of deaths due to lack of safety has remained more or less constant. This fund, called Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh, or National Rail Protection Fund, was created over the last five years using seed capital from the Government, revenue from the Railways, and other sources.
The number of people killed in the first six months of this year due to “consequential railway accidents” has already climbed to 57. Consequential train accidents are accidents caused due to fire, collisions, derailments, etc which result in a significant number of deaths, injuries, and loss of property. If the casualties from the Utkal incident are added, the total rises to 80. This excludes the other accidents for which data is not yet available.
This is just the number of deaths from consequential accidents. The total number of accidental deaths on railway tracks is much higher, and shocking.
Data Source: Rajya Sabha Question 3024
According to the data, the average number of deaths on railway tracks in the last three yearsis 24,687. Since then, a number of steps have been listed by the Railways Ministry to avoid these accidents. Yet the number of deaths seems to have remained the same. Till June 2017, 12,669 deaths have occurred on the railway tracks. Going at this rate, the total for this year is likely to be the same as last year.
Apart from the huge allocation for the Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh, Rs 9,961 crore was allocated this year just for track renewals. But no particular decrease in the number of derailments has yet been seen. The Utkal train derailment was also due to the tracks not being maintained.
Data source: Rajya Sabha question 3007 and union budget 2017
The number of deaths shown in the graph for the year 2017 is only until August.
The rise in accidents has come during a period when railway fares have risen significantly. The railways have seen a bump in their revenue from the new flexi-fare scheme, which was implemented in September last year. A senior ministry official said there was an additional revenue of Rs 540 crore in less than a year from the increase in trainfares. There has been a rise in the total revenue earned from passengers as well.
Data source: union budget 2017
If so much is being spent on safety and maintenance, then why are there still so many avoidable deaths?
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