Initial inquiry reports of recent rail accidents may point to sabotage, but a former Railway Minister and officials held the "faulty financing model" and delay in implementing the required technological measures responsible for the poor infrastructure of the railways that may also be responsible for some train accidents.
As former Railway Ministers in the last decade, Lalu Prasad of the Rashtriya Janata Dal and Mamata Banerjee of the Trinmool Congress refrained from any rational hikes in fares, the railways have reached the level of bankruptcy, the officials said.
Former Railway Board Chairman JP Batra said that the minimal hike in railway fares in the last decade has taken its toll on the infrastructure.
"It is acceptable to give subsidy at certain places like in the fare of second class tickets. However, we will have to compensate the cost of travel through other channels. We need to arrange funds to improve the infrastructure. And you need political will to that," Batra told IANS.
If the government wants to achieve a zero-accident goal then it will have to organise required resources to adopt the suggestions given by the Kakodkar committee, which include advance technological inputs, said Batra.
Former Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi said that the railways' financing model was at fault and subsequent governments failed to acknowledge it. Trivedi also said that railways should not be used as political tool.
"Railways' entire financing model is at fault and it is close to financial bankruptcy. It is running at deficit of Rs 20,000 crore. Subsequent governments, not just this, has not understood it," Trivedi told IANS.
Trivedi was forced to resign as Railway Minister a fortnight after he proposed an across-the-board increase in rail fares in the annual rail budget for 2012-13.
Trivedi added that the railways operation ratio means that it spends Rs 130 to earn Rs 100.
A former General Manager of the North East Frontier Railway said the delay in procuring equipment and material and their delivery contribute to ill-maintenance of infrastructure.
"There are several other factors that can cause derailment or accidents. But it is very difficult to hold any one factor responsible. It is true that railways is financially crippled. However, delay in procurement and delivery of equipment and material is also issue of concern," said the former official, who requested anonymity.
Trivedi asked for changes in the investment model to bring about changes in the long term. "If you investing and demanding interest (immediately), it does not work. Your returns will come after 20 years. There has to be a long-term goal," Trivedi said.
(Saurabh Katkurwar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)