Wednesday, October 2, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



High time to improve railway safety

I have been reading with interest the various reports and comments on railway safety in your esteemed The Tribune. I specifically refer to the two editorials The Rajdhani disaster (Sept. 11) and Improving railway safety (Sept.14). Having been a driver for about three years on steam locomotives and seven years on diesel electric locomotives and then remaining as a Senior Supervisor (Mechanical) for about 20 years, I am acquainted with the prevailing conditions in the railway. As Chief Instructor, I had also trained the crew for some time. I have also attended several railway accidents during my service.

I feel wrong application of brakes by the engine driver might not have caused this accident because even if the driver has to apply full brakes in its emergency position which he can and should in need of dire eventuality, the retarding force on the wheels of the train would never be so severe that it tends to halt the wheels instantaneously resulting in derailment. The prescribed air pressures of the brake system are ideally adjusted in such a way that the retarding force does not become more than the adhesion (grip between wheels and rails) even when the emergency position of brake power is used, thus no chances of wheels becoming absolutely rigid to come off the rails.

In the Kolkata-New Delhi Rajdhani Express accident, either the fishplates were removed or the bridge was weak. The driver could do nothing to apprehend danger lurking ahead while running at a high speed, that too, at night.


As regards ageing engines, such locomotives should not be allowed to run any train. Every locomotive has to undergo thorough periodical schedules after each trip to keep it in perfect fettle. Generally one of the best locomotives is nominated to run prestigious trains like the Rajdhani Express.

I fully agree with the view that there is a need to improve training methods and techniques of the railway staff, especially those who are directly concerned with train operation. Sub-standard staff are put to work as trainers whose contribution is almost negligible in educating the trainees technically up to the required standard and make them safety-conscious.

I would not hesitate to mention that to harp on the sabotage theory for some accidents has now become a habit for railway officials. I have seen and experienced how high-ups manipulate to hush up the fault on the part of the staff and float the sabotage theory. The Commissioner of Railway Safety who conducts enquiries, in most of the cases, bends to the suggestions of the railway officers while giving his report.

No new railway zone must be formed because this decision is purely political in nature and would be a drain on the exchequer. The need of the hour is efficient, well-trained, safety-conscious, devoted and honest staff to run the world’s second largest railway network. Funds should be meticulously used for the safety of the passengers.

S.C. ANAND, Ambala Cantonment


Reflections on Gandhiji’s birthday

Very few people have little knowledge about the lifestyle, thinking and working of the late Mahatma Gandhi vis-a-vis the science of nature cure — a subject which was very dear to him. We celebrate his birthday today as a ritual. A holiday is declared and functions are organised, but his contributions to the science of nature cure are hardly recalled.

In “Harijan”, he desired that in independent India, the science of nature cure will not only be practiced in each house but will be taught in schools and colleges and in other institutions too including Panchayats so that the poor people may live a healthful life by resorting to Nature. Gandhiji used to practice this science in Sabarmati Ashram and other places and used to give treatment with his own hands. He taught the science of nature cure at Urlikanchan, Pune and said that if our society cannot manage this institution, it is not capable of managing the country after independence.

By following science of nature cure, he was quite hale and hearty. On January 30, 1948, when he was doing his morning walk just before his assassination, he was walking at a speed which others could not keep pace with. He, in fact, believed that he would lead a disease-free life of 125 years.

According to the late C. Subramaniam, he was killed by bullets even though he condemned violence throughout his life. His body was also carried on a gun-carriage as per the wishes of his disciple, Jawaharlal Nehru, though he was deadly opposed to guns.

Gandhiji never desired that his birthday be celebrated as a public holiday since he believed in working. We do not follow his teachings on our everyday life. Still, we claim to be his followers.

S.R. MITTAL, Ludhiana


CBSE overhaul

This has reference to Mr Atma Ram’s article “CBSE needs to overhaul exam system” (Sept. 4). Being a teacher, I strongly feel that viewing examination reforms should not be the central issue in our education, for it deflects from the real issue — the quality of teaching and learning. In fact, there should be effective ways of improving the quality of teaching and learning without pegging them to examinations.

The most important point to decide in advance is what capacities to test? Should it be the candidate’s memory or his/her power of expression or sense of judgment? The stress would vary with different subjects and at different levels. Capabilities in languages, pure sciences, humanities and social sciences are not all tested the same way. The syllabi should include model tests to indicate the different styles.

An old adage says that hanging and wiving go by destiny to this short list of the inevitable, we can add passing and failing in examinations. Unfortunately neither teachers nor others in the academic hierarchy accepts any responsibility for this recurring academic phenomenon. Surprisingly, education is one commodity in regard to which the customer does not mind being cheated.

Our examinations do not test such capabilities as creativity and leadership. But do we not expect our schools, colleges and universities and other seats of learning to foster and develop these qualities among the young students? High grades in exams will not be a substitute for this experience. Plutarch once said, “The city is the best teacher. In Athens, education was not a segregated activity, conducted for certain hours, in certain places at a certain time of life. It was the aim of the society. The city educated the man”. It is a road that is still open to our educationists.

Anil Bhatia,
Dept. of English DN College, Hisar

Stop ragging

Ragging is nothing short of injuring the budding student’s psyche and denying him the fundamental freedom to exist as a human being. Many things and codes are forced upon the student in the college usually with total indifference from the colleges authorities. He is made to do abnormal acts and quite often beaten mercilessly. Many students return with bruised psyche and some commit suicide. Deaths due to merciless beating are quite common.

Generally, the second year students, in any professional college, indulge in ragging freshers, perhaps due to sheer vengeance. The circle never ends up and is revived each year with fresh admissions. I suggest that we need to be very strict in booking the guilty.

Even the college authorities who fail to take swift action on a complaint must be treated as guilty and punished. Exemplary punishment needs to be given to guards, wardens and deans and other such authorities in these institutions as they are primarily responsible for the welfare of the students. Senior students who remain mute spectators to this dirty drama could be denied the privilege of campus selection by companies in a particular year during which any report about ragging surfaces from a particular institution.

The institution as such can also be considered from downgrading or de-recognition should ragging persist. Students indulging in ragging can also be subjected to deduction of marks in internal assessment. Unless senior students and the college authorities are made to rise in revolt against this dirty and inhuman practice by imposition of strict punishments upon them as well, ragging cannot be wiped out once and for all.

Sushil Girdher, Sirsa (Haryana)

Interesting couplet

Apropos of the letter (Oct 1), Pandit Surinder Soz’s correct couplet is thus: Jis laash ko chandan mein saja rakha tha maine, woh qatal bhi mere hi ishaare pe hua tha (Zakham Koi Ho, p.74).

T.N. RAZ, Panchkula

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