Shraddhanjali : Mourning the Train Tragedy in Odisha

Shraddhanjali : Mourning the Train Tragedy in Odisha

In the past month, India witnessed one of its worst rail accidents, resulting in the death of at least 280 people and injuring another 900. On 2nd June 2023, Train No. 12841 UP Shalimar-Coromandel Express and Train No. 12864 Sir M Viveswaraiya Howrah Superfast Express derailed near Bahanaga Bazar Station, Balasore, Odisha. The initial accident was caused by a collision between the Coromandel Express and a freight train, which led to the derailed Coromandel Express colliding with the oncoming Howrah Superfast Express.

The immediate response from authorities to the Balasore train accident was swift and coordinated. Rescue teams, medical personnel, and law enforcement agencies were deployed promptly to the accident site. They worked tirelessly to extricate survivors, provide medical assistance, and ensure the safety of those affected. A crisis management cell was established simultaneously to streamline communication, disseminate information, and coordinate relief efforts.

This tragic incident in Balasore underscores the imperative for continuous improvements in railway safety. Over the years, the Indian government has undertaken significant measures to enhance safety across the railway network. Investments have been made to modernise infrastructure, upgrade signalling systems, and implement advanced technology to detect and prevent accidents. Additionally, rigorous training programs for railway staff and regular safety inspections have been conducted to minimise risks.

The state governments of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu, along with the central government of India, made concerted efforts to retrieve the bodies, rescue the injured and transport the stranded passengers. While it was heartbreaking to witness the gory scenes, it was also heartening to note the coming together of many regional and national leaders, despite their political differences to alleviate the suffering of the people.

In recent years, the Indian Railways has implemented various safety measures to prevent train derailments. This includes establishing the Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh, a fund dedicated to critical safety projects, and replacing unmanned level crossings with manned crossings or road overbridges. Efforts have been made to upgrade tracks by replacing worn-out rails, improving fittings, and implementing advanced monitoring systems.

The Indian Railways has embraced modern technology like Ultrasonic Flaw Detection machines, Train Collision Avoidance System, and Advanced Signalling Systems for better control of train movements. Maintenance facilities for rolling stock have been enhanced to reduce equipment failures and derailments. Additionally, training programs focused on safety, promoting a safety culture, and regular assessments have been prioritised for railway personnel.

In the aftermath of the Balasore train accident, the Government of India has tasked the Central Bureau of Investigation to identify the root causes and systemic failures which led to the tragedy. Based on the findings, appropriate measures should be implemented to rectify shortcomings and prevent similar incidents. Stricter adherence to safety protocols, enhanced maintenance practices, and improved emergency response mechanisms are among the key areas that need attention.

While a nation mourns the massive loss of lives, to cope with such incidents and prevent such occurrences, ongoing investments in railway infrastructure and safety measures are crucial. Adequate funding should be allocated to upgrade tracks, bridges, and rolling stock while deploying state-of-the-art technology for real-time monitoring and maintenance. Regular audits and independent safety assessments should also be conducted to further enhance the reliability of the railway network.

In conclusion, the Balasore train accident has brought to the forefront the continuous need to strengthen railway safety in India. Through collaborative efforts between the central government and state governments, along with sustained investments, comprehensive reforms, and heightened public awareness, we can fortify our railway system and significantly reduce the likelihood of future accidents. The resilience and determination displayed in the immediate response to the Balasore tragedy highlight the unwavering commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of all citizens as they travel across our nation.

Chinmaya Udghosh