Friday, May 23, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



How TTEs can help avoid railway accidents

Apropos of the editorial “Chalta hai attitude” (May 17), it is a fact that in spite of so many safety measures, accidents have been occurring with sickening regularity. Inquiries have been ordered after every accident.

Yet, unfortunately, we have not been able to check accidents. Accountability will have to be fixed for every act of carelessness, negligence and human error. The officer or the employee must be made to pay for his error of judgement. Till suitable punishment is awarded to the guilty, it may not be possible to reduce accidents.

Accidents such as the one in the Frontier Mail near Ludhiana occurred during night or early morning hours when most passengers are fast asleep. As the absence of TTEs in the respective coaches during this time is a grave offence, TTEs should be made responsible for any violation of safety norms in the compartments. Each TTE should be directed to record minutes in a register the exact functioning of his compartment every day, particularly during nights.

They should keep awake and be mentally alert during their duty hours. Each TTE must be given walkie talkies, mobile phones to keep in touch with their colleagues, guards, drivers and other officials on the train and at various railway stations. There should be no communication gap among these railway personnel.


The TTEs must ensure that the exits are not blocked by luggage. Smoking must be banned and the rule strictly enforced.

They should also regularly check whether the chains are functioning properly. Fire extinguishers should be installed in all the coaches; TTEs should be imparted training on how to operate them properly during emergency.



There is another important aspect of railway mishaps i.e. the question of common man’s responsibility. While we expect everything to be spic and span from the government side, we, even after 55 years of Independence, have not learnt our duties at a public place. Even in this case of the tragic loss of human lives near Ludhiana, it is feared that some burning cigarette or a gas stove or some other inflammable material might have caused the fire. Many a time, I have picked up quarrels with stubborn smokers in the AC compartments who seem to show us their mercy by smoking near the door of the coach and not inside. Many of us consider it a status symbol to carry a lot of luggage which not only comes in the way of everyone moving in the aisle but often blocks the doors as happened in the case of the Frontier Mail.

No doubt, the railways should learn its lessons from such tragic incidents and reorient its priorities on safety measures. At the same time, we, as commuters, should not just follow the rules of public living but make others also to abide by them. It will be a case of our own negligence if the cause of this tragedy turns out to be a lighted cigarette butt thrown by a careless passenger, whom we, as co-travellers, could not persuade not to put in danger the lives of so many innocent people.



My heart bled profusely, when I read about the tragic end of Dr Alphonsa Chelapurath, Administrator of Sacred Heart Hospital, Maqsudan and renowned social worker, whose compassion and self-less service I never knew earlier. She was consigned to flames in the burning train tragedy along with other passengers.

In our society, one can rarely expect a person of Dr Chelapurath’s stature to travel in Sleeper Class from Mumbai to Jalandhar. Her exemplary dedication and commitment at the cost of her personal comforts must be evaluated by those who talk of social service but lead a luxurious life. Dr Chelapurath was the real embodiment of love and compassion like Mother Teresa and Baba Amte.

B. M. SINGH, Amritsar


Army men rescue 200” appeared like a very strange headline in The Tribune (May 16). How very odd indeed that the lowly ‘jawan’ who is looked down upon by one and all — specially when a war is not on — has been praised so liberally!

I also saw many pictures of the accident site in other newspapers and on TV. It was shocking to see almost all civilians, including uniformed policemen, masking their faces to ward off ‘human stink’. It was only the Indian Army men who had their faces uncovered. These are the men who know the taste and odour of death.

A question cropped up in my mind repeatedly. Why is the Army always called in when all other means have failed? Why can’t our ‘highly literate’ (please note, not educated) civilian brothers handle arduous situations? The answer is easy to find. They are lacking in self-discipline, are not motivated and normally found lacking in the leadership cadres. And these are the people who not only make rules for themselves but rule over the destinies of others; enjoying their self-assumed ‘funny’ powers and a sense of false superiority.

Three cheers for Havaldar J.D.Singh, Havaldar Bhagwan Singh and Spr Sukhchain Singh even when this grim tragedy is fresh. And do your readers know that these brave and gallant men are paid less than the Deputy Commissioner’s peon?

CAPT REET SINGH, Nabha (Punjab)

Protecting the Sukhna lake

Raising the level of the crest and banks in Chandigarh’s Sukhna lake is no solution to the problem as the increased capacity will again get reduced by silting in a few years. However, the suggestion for providing filters to arrest the silt before it enters the lake has its own drawbacks. First, the arrested silt will need lot of water to be wasted to flush it downstream of the lake. In the beginning, when the lake is being filled, it will not be possible to afford this wastage. When water is available after filling of the lake, the quantity of the silt collected after filtration may be so large that it may be difficult to flush it out. Secondly, even if we somehow are able to flush it out, the silt will get deposited in the Sukhna bed downstream of the lake and choke it after sometime.

The other suggestion put forward by some engineers that silt excluding devices may be provided to exclude silt deposits of the lake also has problems. For running of silt ejectors, surplus water is required. This will be available only after the lake is full. However, by this time most of the silt will be deposited in the lake bed itself, which the silt ejector cannot draw out. This ejector will draw out silt only from the current of water which reaches its approach tunnels. Hence, this will also not solve the problem. Then again, the problem of choking of the Sukhna choe will be there.

The only solution to save the lake is to arrest the silt in the catchment area of the Sukhna choe. For this, afforestation of the hill slopes and soil conservation measures will be needed. An organisation has to be created which should include the Forest Department, Soil Conservation experts and Irrigation engineers.

As the catchment area lies in three states, this organisation will act as the coordinator for execution of works in other states. The finances will have to be provided by the UT Administration. Till the hill sides are afforested and soil conservation measures are taken, we will have to provide check dams on all the nalas joining the Sukhna as also on the choe itself. The water stored in the lakes of these dams can be used for local irrigation. After the lakes formed upstream of these checkdams are silted up, we may have to provide check dams further up on these nalas. All this needs detailed planning and investigation. An organisation has to be created for this at the earliest. However, check dams can be started, to begin with, so that the silt coming down the nalas is arrested.

B. S. NAT, Former Chief Engineer (Irrigation), Haryana


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