Train Derailment in India
By Cameryn Stewart
On Saturday night, January 21, a train derailed in Southern India killing at least 36
passengers and injuring 50 others. The night train derailed on its giant but poorly managed rail
network. According to Chandralekha Mukherji, divisional railway mannager, stated that seven
coaches of the Hirakhand Express were thrown off the tracks late at night. The train was
navigating between Jagdalpur, in Chhattisgarh state, and Bhuvanesawar, in Orissa. Many
rescuers tried to cut open the mangled coaches on Sunday morning near the Kuneru railway
station, in the Vizianagaram district of Andhra Pradesh state.
Officials are investigating on whether Maoist rebels had tampered with the rails, after the
Jagdalpur-Bhubaneswar express derailed with 8 coaches and the engine at around 11:00 pm.
There is a possible sabotage of the tracks by the Maoist rebels who are active in that area,
according to Anil Kumar Saxena. “There is some suspicion [of sabotage] because two other
trains had crossed over smoothly using the same tracks earlier in the night.” The police in
Odisha dismissed any involvement by Maoist rebels, also known as Naxals, in the derailment.
India’s railway system is the world’s third largest but is severely hampered by a lack of
modern signalling and communication systems. There is also poor maintenance of tracks and
equipment. Manual signalling is still used in several places, raising the risk of human error. 146
people were killed when a packed passenger train derailed near the town of Kanpur, in Uttar
Pradesh during November. It was the deadliest rail accident in the country in five years. A
government report in 2012 stated that about 15,000 people are killed each year in train
accidents. The worst accident was in 1981, when a train fell into the Bagmati River in northern
India, killing nearly 800 people. The railway is used by about 23 million passengers a day.
India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, pledged to invest 137 billion dollars over the next five
years to modernize the railway network.
A message on Sunday sent by Modi on Twitter expressed his condolences for all of those
who were killed in the latest accident. He also said that the railway ministry was monitoring the
situation very closely to figure out what happened.