Monday, September 16, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Mishandling Rajdhani Express derailment: why blame-game before enquiry?

THE recent derailment of Rajdhani Express near Rafiganj in Bihar has put a question mark on the safety of the tracks. The Railway Minister was the first to reach the site of the accident to oversee the arrangements. He ordered an inquiry, but in the same breath claimed it to be a case of sabotage. Simply put, the state government was blamed for a poor law and order situation. The President of the RJD along with the Chief Minister of Bihar too rushed to the spot by air to assess the loss. Not to lag behind, he put the blame on the poor condition of the railway bridge.

This "tu tu, main main" was resorted to when the call of the hour was to intensify rescue and relief operations. The blame-game by these worthies was aimed at deriving political mileage even in a heart-wrenching situation when commuters and their kin were in a state of shock. Distressingly, the Home Minister had to crack the whip to discipline the Railway Minister for making irresponsible statements.

That apart, after such a disaster, an enquiry is ordered routinely. The inquiring authority pinpoints the cause of the accident and makes eminently sensible recommendations to guard against a recurrence. It is ironic that all such reports gather dust in the Railway Mantralaya and the recommendations are never acted upon. In short, the image of the Railways has taken a beating.



Frequent accidents: It is really unfortunate that every other day we have news of a rail accident, or even a MiG crash. Sympathising with the victims alone won't help; the policy-makers will have to do something concrete.

The Railway Minister should first get all trains and junctions cleared properly as they are the breeding grounds for various diseases; second, get all trains and tracks regularly checked and repaired; and third, travel all over the country by train to feel for himself the comforts and discomforts experienced by passengers.


Rescue work delayed: The Centre has no contingency plans and equipment to face such calamities. It took several hours for the ill-equipped rescue parties to reach the site of the accident. Even relief trains took several hours just to start for the destination. Even on the third day the bodies were still being extricated from the damaged coaches by using medieval methods.

In such an emergency, helicopters along with medical teams and equipment to cut the coaches should have landed at the place of the accident within an hour. Cranes should also have reached there by the same time. Helicopters could have removed the seriously injured to hospital and many precious lives could have been saved.

Maj NARINDER SINGH JALLO (retd), Kapurthala

Safety measures: In spite of the repeated claims that the safety measures are being constantly improved, frequent derailments and collisions do point to deficiencies and defects in the railway system. This state of affairs needs to be probed thoroughly, particularly in the light of the recommendations of the Rakesh Mohan Committee and several other bodies set up from time to time.

Unfortunately, railway accidents are viewed by different politicians from different angles with a view to furthering their individual political interests. The derailment of Rajdhani Express is no exception.



Teachers' Day

I went to the class I teach on September 5 with an expectation that the students would wish me a “Happy Teachers’ Day”. But to my astonishment, their was no such greeting. I could not control myself and asked for the reason. As per their views, the Teachers’ Day is meant for school teachers only.

Every year school teachers are honoured by the President or the Governor of a state but no college teacher is honoured on that platform. Very sad for us who teach in colleges and other institutes.

RACHNA KAUR, Hoshiarpur

Fighting evils

No doubt, Capt Amarinder Singh aims to take all corrupt non-Congress men in the state to task. But he should not forget that “men do not live only by fighting evils. They live by positive goals".

In Mahabharta, after the defeat of the Kauravas, Yudhishtra before taking the charge of the state went to Bhisham Pitamaha for blessings. Bhisham Pitamaha advised him not to waste his time on criticising his predecessors. Because his predecessors were wrong that is why they had gone and Yudhishtra had come into power.

Ram Rajya is no where in India, but burning the effigy of Ravana is still continued. Hope the Captain is listening!


Work without pay

Salary delayed is salary denied. The staff working under the Swaran Jayanti Shahri Rozgar Yojana, Municipal Corporation, Ludhiana, have not been paid their salaries for the last almost 12 months now. The authorities at the helm of affairs should probe the matter and the party responsible be made to face the consequences.

If the salary had been withheld for any lack of performance on the part of the staff, then they surely deserve this all as nothing in the professional world equals the punishment of being an unpaid worker and the mental harassment that one goes through in its wake can never be compensated for even after making a payment of accumulated salary to the staff thereafter. And in case the situation is found otherwise; the officials responsible for unduly withholding the salaries should be made to face a similar fate like that of the suffering staff, thus enforcing justice in true spirit and action.

SANGEETA, Ludhiana

PCS officers' case

The Punjab Government’s orders removing 63 PCS (allied services) officers from service are bereft of all canons of justice. First, none of the affected officers was named guilty or tainted by any individual, committee or investigating authority like the Vigilance Bureau. Second, no attempt was made to sift evidence and differentiate between the guilty and the innocent. Aren't some officers of the intelligence agencies getting fat salaries for this very purpose? Third, no affected officer was given a chance to state his case, prove himself innocent and above board.

It is so very easy to punish all officers en block without distinction — any blockhead can do that. But to punish only the guilty and safeguard the upright requires clear sense of purpose, clear conscience, a strong sense of fair play and intelligent hard work.

R.K. BHARDWAJ, Chandigarh


The other part

This refers to "One part of the story" (Sept 7). It is the height of callousness to belittle the cause of a cobbler's capable son who fell a victim to the mindless drive against PPSC corruption. The other part of the story is so well known and so degrading that it need not be repeated. It deserves the contempt of all right-thinking people, besides severe action. But that does not mean punishing the capable, righteous and upright officers like the cobbler's son.


Ex-servicemen's plight

As per the Ministry of Defence, there are over 17 lakh defence pensioners and 35,000 widows of ex-servicemen in the country today. Every year 3,000 officers, 6,000 junior commissioned officers and 54,000 other ranks retire from the services. Along with their dependents, they constitute a fairly significant and influential segment of the population. Seventyfive lakh or 42 per cent of them hail from the six northern states. Strangely, these ex-servicemen suffer from a step-motherly treatment in comparison to the civilian government pensioners in respect of post-retirement medicare benefits.

While the civilian pensioners are covered under comprehensive medicare facilities like the Central Government Health Scheme, the Railway Medical Scheme etc, no such scheme exists for the defence pensioners and their dependents. Even some of the fund-starved states in the country ensure reasonable medicare benefits, including a reimbursement option, to the pensioners and their dependents.

On the other hand, what the ex-servicemen are authorised is a pittance. They are not entitled to indoor treatment in military hospitals. There are no reimbursement facilities for treatment of ordinary ailments.

The ex-servicemen who live in remote areas and are dependent solely on pension suffer the most. In this milieu, one serious casualty is the overall image of the armed forces. No institutionalised medicare scheme for defence pensioners and their dependents has yet been finalised. The matter is said to be "under active consideration". Interestingly, this has remained so despite tall promises by politicians year after year since Independence. Probably being overly disciplined and ignorant of ground-realities, the armed forces fail to convince the obdurate bureaucrats for a low-cost workable scheme.

How else does one explain, on the part of those responsible for accepting and making do with a discriminatory budged-allocation as this: Rs 606 crore to CGHS (for 45 lakh beneficiaries), Rs 575 crore to the Railways (for 80 lakh beneficiaries) and just Rs 5 crore for some 75 lakh ex-servicemen? It needs to be emphasised that medicare to ex-servicemen and their dependents must be regarded as an inviolable obligation of the government rather than a charitable "concession" as doled out at present.

Brig GOVIND SINGH KHIMTA (retd), Shimla

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