On July 23, four unsuspecting passengers aboard a crowded suburban train in Chennai died a horrific death after they hit a hard surface at the mount station, and fell from their coach. Train commuters and the public were furious over this incident, blaming the railways for their gruesome deaths. And now a Railway Claims Tribunal headed by Justice (retd) K Kannan and member (technical) Sarjana Rao have justified this outrage in an 11-page report which addresses the claim application for the families of the deceased and the injured.
"This was a gory sequel to an equally serious incident at the same place just the previous night, when two died at the same spot. In retrospect, it is a pity that the former incident did not send alarm bells to the railway administration to see what went wrong,” the final order stated.
The tribunal further blamed the deaths on two reasons – error in engineering construction and maintenance; and error is passengers' method of travel.
According to the report, "While Error in Engineering Construction and Maintenance lies directly at the doors of railway administration, Error in Passengers' method of travel cannot always be termed as adventurous acts." They refer here to the fact that the passengers were travelling on the footboard of the crowded train.
"It is indeed Hobson's choice for many of the commuters in metropolitan cities who must willy nilly arrive at their respective destination for work and if the public transport system itself does not provide contrivance safety such as automatic closing of doors before the train begins its run, then this type of accident could only be taken as inevitable. There is no check on issuance of tickets only to so many number of passengers as a train can take in. But it is a sad reality that our public transport system themselves lay booby traps for serious casualties to consumers of such a transport system."
The report further exposes the fact that the pale fencing which was responsible for the deaths was not constructed as per the Engineering plan. It was supposed to be at a distance of 2360 mm but during construction the required clearance was not maintained. The smaller gap meant that passengers standing on the footboard with bags were likely to hit the fence.
The Railway administration has promised Rs 8 lakh for the families of the deceased upto Rs 2 lakh for the injured. Families are however unhappy over the solatium offered.
Vel Murugan, father of Vignesh who was injured in the accident works as a private cab driver. His son Vignesh, pursuing his second year B Com has been forced to take a break from college after he broke his jaw in the accident. “We don't need money. If they give some job, it will be a new lease of life for these boys. We are all from poor families," says this father. "Not just my son, I would request the government to give jobs to all of them."