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Thursday July 25, 2024

Odisha tragedy

By Editorial Board
June 08, 2023

The June 2 horrific triple train crash in Odisha’s Balasore city in India was a result of a signal fault. The train tragedy led to at least 288 passengers losing their lives, as more than 1,000 suffered injuries. India has over the years taken several initiatives to revamp its railway system, which was laid down during the British Raj. And it has made commendable achievements in this regard. But the June 2 crash calls for Indian authorities to pause and analyze what needs to be done. The crash involved the Coromandel Express which generally has a high number of passengers as most labourers travel from their native towns and villages to urban cities in search of jobs on this train.

Initial inquiry reports suggest that there was “deliberate interference” with the electronic interlocking system. Further investigations will identify the actual cause behind the accident. What is more painful about this tragedy is the fact that most passengers travelling in the country – and who lost their lives – belong to lower-income families who were either on their way to meet their families or had just left their hometowns to find better employment opportunities in cities. After the accident, relatives of the victims had to set out on a difficult and exhausting journey to reach the crash site and deal with bureaucratic hurdles to go through the heart-wrenching procedure of identifying and claiming the bodies of their loved ones. The Indian government has earlier promised to install the anti-train collision system across the road network to avoid fatal accidents.

In 2020, when Covid-19-induced lockdown restrictions forced thousands of India's in-country migrants to move to their hometowns, a train crushed tired migrants who were sleeping on the tracks. The incident should have compelled authorities to speed up work on installing anti-collision devices. Maybe it has something to do with the social and financial standing of victims that their plight is easily forgotten. Instead of necessary questions, social media saw the usual blame games and conspiracy theories, turning a tragedy into a contest of misinformation. India needs to make more efforts to make its railway network safe and secure. Over the years, Pakistan too has seen train tragedies, although the number of casualties remained lower than the devastating toll in India. This is a terrifying reminder that neglect in such cases means a cost of actual human life.