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Railways stick to stand: No accident death in 2019

A day after Niti Ayog Amitabh Kant questioned the reliability of the Railway Ministry data that in 2019-20, no death was recorded, Railway Board Chairman V.K. Yadav stuck to his department’s claim.

Yadav asserted that no deaths happened on its network due to accidents, though some "unfortunate" casualties were recorded due to "trespassing" and untoward incidents like falling from trains.

"Railway does keep a record of all the deaths that have occurred on its premises, but under three separate heads—consequential accidents, trespassing, and untoward incidents," the Railway Board Chairman said yesterday while addressing a virtual press conference.

The Niti Ayog CEO on Wednesday had questioned Railway's data reliability and said that over 2,000 fatalities occur in the Mumbai suburban section every year.

Yadav said these are the incidents over which Railways have little or no control. "Efforts are on to sensitize the public on avoiding such situations," he said.

Answering the claims, Yadav said, "It is true that consequential accidents were indeed zero in 2019-2020 and so far this year as well. We keep records of deaths due to trespassing like when people come on the tracks and are run over or people standing on the footboard of trains or hanging out of trains. In the last three years, around 29,000 to 30,000 people have lost their lives due to either trespassing or untoward incidents."

"This data will be given to Niti Ayog," he added.

The Niti Ayog had also questioned the significant expenditure incurred from the specially created fund to strengthen the safety mechanism and observed the absence of any advanced "technologies introduced by Indian Railways for the purposes of improving safety."

In the quarterly review meeting of the Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh (RRSK) in the last week of July, chaired by Kant, a presentation was made which highlighted the safety work undertaken as well as its impact on railway safety.

"As per the data presented by the Indian Railways, there has been a noticeable improvement in railway safety," Kant said in a letter to Yadav after the meeting.

Kant in his letter also said that the presentation highlights a total of five deaths recorded in 2019-20 and zero deaths in the current fiscal year. "Is this a realistic record? In the Mumbai suburban network, over 2,000 people lose their lives every year. It was informed that these deaths are caused on account of trespassing and therefore not counted," he said in his letter.

"I would like to draw your attention to the fact that many of these deaths are caused by people falling overboard or from the platform on to the tracks. Hence, this should not be excluded from the purview of RRSK. It should be ideally recorded officially," the CEO added.

(With agency inputs).