Our country India is endowed with an extensive rail network of about 65569 kms. Indian Railways has more than 64,015 kilometres (39,777 mi) of track and 6,909 stations. It has the world's fourth largest railway network after that of the United State, Russia and China. The railways traverse the length and breadth of the country and carry over 20 million passengers and 2 million tons of freight daily. It is one of the world's largest commercial or utility employers, with more than 1.6 million employees. As to rolling stock, IR owns over 200,000 (freight) wagons, 50,000 coaches and 8,000 locomotives.
However, our railways have a pathetic safety record. It failed to meet targets it had set for itself in its corporate safety plan [2003-2013] revealing low priority given to passenger safety according to the CAG report. We still need to modernize signaling equipment, anti-collision devices, maintain assets and fill-up safety related jobs…
I in this article, try to compare the performance of two Railway Ministers of the present and previous UPA Government - Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mamata Banerjee.......
Our railway minister Mamata banerjee is facing flak from all sides due the recent spate of accidents. Since her appointment as the railway minister there have been 200 accidents in 14 months. Her negligence is held responsible for the dismal record of accidents.
In November 2009, 6 mishaps occurred followed by 3 mishaps in January 2010 taking away innocent lives. This wasn’t enough, the derailment of Mumbai bound Gyaneshwar express in May killed 170 people and injured several others! It is seen that she gives over importance to West Bengal politics over her ministry of railways.
Adding to the scathing indictment, the rail accident at Sainthia, which occurred on 19th July instantly killed 67 people and injured hundreds. At Sainthia, there was a collision between Sealdah bound Uttarbanga express and Uttranchal bound Vanachal express in Bhirbhum district of West Bengal. This has raised serious doubts about Banerjee and her capabilities in providing safety to the railways.
However, she refuses to take any responsibility of the accident at Sainthia on moral grounds. Gone are those days when Lal Bahadur Shastri took moral responsibility of the accident in 1956!! Didi professes CPM’s hand behind these mishaps with an aim to tarnish her image.
Surprisingly, she has not even shown a bit of remorse. After 48 hrs of the Sainthia accident, didi joined a combined rally resuming her usual Bengal politics, leaving the railways behind as if nothing had happened. Rather than taking stock of the situation and functioning of the dept at the right place and right time, she has been pro-active in ‘announcing’ compensation to victims and ‘directing’ senior officials from Delhi to rush to the accident site! This has given enough ammunition to her opponents to question her callous behaviour. Her over indulgence in the Bengal politics — dislodging the left front — is killing railways. She rides two horses and is unable to strike the right balance between the two. No advanced country compromises on safety grounds like this. Our government is also silent as if nothing has happened.
She had promised to start new trains in her railway budget 2009. Though she has started a few, now she complains that the ‘harmads’ (CPM’s goons ) have conspired to upset her plans and derail her mission of development.
Whatever justification she might give now, it is a well known fact now that mamata tops the list of ‘absentee’ ministers and the rail bhavan has to recognize it.
Lalu Prasad Yadav
Lalu Prasad yadav was the railway minister from 2004 to 2009 in the ruling UPA govt. When he took over the railways when it was in a ‘bankruptcy’ state.
However, he turned this loss making organization into a profit making department by making a total profit of Rs. 25000 crore in 4 years. Therefore, he was responsible for the financial turnaround of the railway department.
He left passenger fares untouched and found several other profitable sources of revenues for railways. With him, the net revenues experienced a robust upward trend. He replaced the plastic cups with kulhads (earthern cups) to generate rural employment and introduced cushion seats in all unreserved compartments.
In June 2004 he boarded the train from the Patna railway station at mid night to inspect the railway problems himself. During his regime, there was a remarkable improvement in railway safety and steep reduction in the number of accidents. The number of accidents came down from 325 in 2004-2005 to 194 in 2007-2009. He was accused of using his position to help his relatives acquire land. Other railway ministers doubt Lalu’s achievements.
Undoubtedly he gave a stellar performance in the span of 5 yrs as a railway minister. Certainly there were problems then and there are problems now, but safety was not compromised.
What do you think? Was Laloo Prasad Yadav a better Railway Minister than Mamata Banerjee? Voice yourself by commenting below