Editorial: Yet another train tragedy

WEB DESK: What happened at Landhi railway station, the third important and second busiest stations of Karachi, on Thursday morning is a tragic example of the casual attitude with which those in charge respond to the suffering of ordinary people.

At least 20 people were killed and 65 others injured, several of them critically, when a speeding Bahauddin Zakaria Express collided with a stationary Fareed Express. Most of the victims were the occupants of the stationary train. Following usual routine on such occasions the Federal Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique made an appearance at the scene accompanied by Sindh Chief Minister’s adviser Saeed Ghani, and laid the blame on the driver of the incoming train without waiting for even preliminary investigations.

Divisional Superintendent of Pakistan Railways later rightly pointed out that it was not possible to determine the cause of the collision immediately, and that an inquiry committee has been formed to collect evidence and submit its report.

It would be a travesty to call it an accident, for accidents happen when something untoward happens despite all precautionary measures being in place. It needs to be recalled that just a couple of months ago, several people were killed and many injured within 24 hours when the Multan bound Mehr Express rammed into a passenger vehicle at a railway crossing (which was supposed to be closed) and later two trains collided near Multan. Clearly, these incidents were the result of systemic failure for which the responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of the minister.

A well-established tradition in civilized countries is for the railways minister to take responsibility for such failures and resign. That in this political culture is something akin to asking for the moon. Khawaja Sahib likes to spend his energies more on political activities than ensuring the efficiency and safety of railway traffic. In the present case after blaming the incident on the driver of Bahauddin Zakaria Express, he went away to join what he thought was a more pressing duty: to join the Prime Minister’s defenders outside the Supreme Court in Islamabad.

Many distraught relatives of the passengers were seen in television footage complaining of poor governmental response in terms of rescue and relief efforts. Sadly, following the customary practice, a ‘compensation’ – normally a paltry sum of around two hundred thousand rupees – has been promised, and things are back to business as usual. This shows a callous attitude towards loss of precious human lives. The government functionaries must stop using the offensive word ‘compensation’ for those killed or injured. Such help can be called condolence or assistance money.

But first and foremost, the railways department must upgrade its dilapidated system. Any dereliction of duty where human lives are at stake is unacceptable. It is imperative that the findings of the inquiry into the latest incident are made public. And, heads must roll at the highest level of responsibility.

Source: Business Recorder