Troubled tracks

Published : Jun 20, 2023 14:14 IST - 2 MINS READ

Rescue workers stand near a damaged carriage at the accident site of a three-train collision near Balasore on June 3, 2023

Rescue workers stand near a damaged carriage at the accident site of a three-train collision near Balasore on June 3, 2023 | Photo Credit: DIBYANGSHU SARKAR

The Railways, often referred to as India’s lifeline, is an unparalleled testament to ambition and connectivity. Consider these numbers: The Indian Railways carries over 800 crore people. Its network spans 68,043 km, making it the world’s No. 4 in route length, with only the US, China and Russia ahead of it. And it has over 1.3 million employees, making it one of the globe’s largest employers. As a conduit of both passengers and goods, it plays an enormous role in the country’s economy. In fact, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that it is the most powerful unifying force in India, rivalling religion, politics, sports, or language.

In short, the Indian Railways is too big to fail.

On June 2, though, it did fail. The train accident at Bahanaga Bazar station in Balasore, in northeastern Odisha, resulted in the loss of 288 lives and, as R.K. Radhakrishnan writes in his analysis, it left the nation stunned and shook the establishment from its slumber.

How did a mishap of such a massive scale involving three trains happen? Was there a systemic problem? A governance glitch? Or was it poor infrastructure? A CBI inquiry and a Railways Commission have been set up but whether they will get to the bottom of the issue or simply bury the real answers remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, the stories in our cover package point to neglect and a shameful prioritising of speed over safety. And a refusal by the government to come clean.

Read on and stay safe,

Team Frontline

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