By Ajit Chak
The derailment of the Utkal Express near Muzaffarnagar is a tragedy beyond compare simply because it seems the driver of the train was unaware that there was repair work taking place on the tracks if preliminary reports are to be believed.
As usual it was the locals who reached the spot first and carried out relief and rescue work even before the authorities managed to scramble to the scene of the disaster.
Of late it has been noticed that local residents have been more supportive than any government body and more caring than any government body in the case of an accident. Most mediamen who visited the site by were informed by local photographer Rizwan about the wee hours of the accident site when no one else was present.
Sluggish response to tragedies and disasters in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand have become an epidemic simply because the government bodies are now full of sarkari adhikaris and not sarkari naukars. It is this attitude problem which delays government work and relief work in most cases.
One thing was found common in most of the disasters and tragedies that took place in the region. The local Gurdwara immediately set up a relief camp and provided a langar to the people who were the survivors. Could a government department have done the same say the local Nagar Nigam for example? Do they even have a budget or a disaster management plan for the same?
One of the biggest lessons of the tragedy at Muzzaffarnagar is this that safety in Railways is still an issue in the 21st Century as we grapple with 19th Century technology and attitudes in the service and associated government services.
The world has moved on to bullet trains and is planning to move on to the hyperloop, but India still struggles to keep its large railway empire, inherited largely from the British Raj, afloat with a tangible absence of funds. The absence of funds comes because the railway is being used as a social service and not as a business enterprise where safety, technology, comfort and good food should be priorities. In the process human lives are lost, but maybe the netas of the day are more concerned about vote banks.