Tragic death at Fort Station today points to Lalu indifference

It is a routine practice for passengers to cross the tracks at Fort - Note the height of the staircase

A middle aged man died apparently after being hit by a train at Fort Railway Station mid-morning today, tragically proving what we have been saying for long: that Union Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, Minister of State Velu and the Southern Railway administration have been paying very little attention to needs of commuters.

The consequences can be deadly

These pictures of the dead man and the concern for procedure AFTER the death go to show that public transport infrastructure in India remains hopelessly out of date, unfriendly to commuters and an open invitation for death and disability on the tracks.

Only last night, trains were delayed at Fort Station at 9.30 p.m. due to an accident.

There are no pedestrian facilities at Fort Station that make the transit from the Beach-Tambaram line to the MRTS line easy for commuters. The station has been walled off along the Muthuswamy Bridge side, but for those who rush from the Tambaram line to MRTS and vice-versa, the steep staircase is a disincentive. They rush across the tracks, often forgetting that trains appear suddenly from the Park side where the track curves partly out of view.

It may be true that crossing tracks is an offence. It is equally a callous and disdainful attitude on the part of the Railway Ministry, which by Mr. Lalu Prasad’s proud assertions in Parliament, is sitting on a cash pile of Rs.25,000 crores. If some of that money can go to fund infrastructure in the stations — escalators, lifts, ticketing and lighting, such tragic happenings can be averted.

Rather than demand better facilities, commuters think it depends on fate

It is easy to prescribe difficult solutions for commuters to follow, but it is foolish to expect to police a system with fines, without caring to look at human psychology, and that too when the basic facilities are not provided.

In the absence of modern infrastructure for our suburban and MRTS stations, we have to blame the Railway Administration for such deaths. If rules can be made in India for passenger cars to have seat belts, air bags and be tested for crashworthiness, can not rules be made to compel our cash-rich railways to instal escalators and lifts?

But the message does not sink in.

The bizarre nature of such accidents and the lack of impact on commuter behaviour can be understood by looking at the picture of a woman crossing the tracks, even as the body of the victim was being examined just a few feet away by mortuary employees and police.

The scene of the incident

Should we wait for more accidents to happen? Should we keep waving the Railway Act in the face of relatives of victims to tell them that the Administration has no responsibility in such events, because the victim violated the law? Are we incapable of operating a modern, fully equipped railway?

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