By Arun Srivastava
Certainly it is not less than bizarre that the Narendra Modi administration which has been using the ED, CBI and IT to terrorise and coerce his opponents to fall in line, only a couple of days back asked the top Railway officials to direct Railway Protection Force to issue notices to the heads villages along the rail tracks in Gujarat and Maharashtra to curb stray animal menace and apply the statutory provisions of Railway Act against the owners of the cattle if they disobey.
Responding to the directives of the top officials, the RPF has warned the sarpanchs of nearly 1000 villages situated by the side of the rail routes on which the much coveted Vande Bharat runs, not to let their cattle loiter or get ready to be jailed if the owners are found to be negligent. Cattle roaming around the tracks and defecating on the rails is not a new thing. It has been happening for centuries.
But this order is certainly the new pointer. The RPF’s fatwa makes it explicit that the poor cattle owner must arrange for the fodder at his house or camp near the track throughout the day that the cattle do not trespass. Is not it a bizarre diktat? The railway authorities instead of making the owners supervise their animal for the whole day they graze, the railways could have put fencing along the route. Certainly the railways have to spend a huge money which it would not do.
A government notification underlined that as per the provisions of Railways Act 1989, owners of cattle are liable to be punished under section 154 (endangering safety of persons travelling by railway by wilful act or omission, punishable with imprisonment for 1 year, or with fine or both) and under section 147 (trespass and refusal to desist from trespass, punishable with imprisonment for 6 months, or fine Rs 1,000 or both). It would be nice precedent if the railways come out with the detail statistics of the cases and punishment meted out to the owners.
In fact in the wake of multiple incidents of Vande Bharat train colliding with cattle, the Railway Protection Force was made to come out with this decree. A rail official said that they allow the animals roam unattended near the tracks. In a clear word he was trying to convey that the owners should accompany their cattle while grazing. The notices make it abundantly clear that if any cattle owner is found to be negligent, legal action could be taken against him. Owner would have to be for the fault of the animal.
This nature of policing has become imperative with the cattle posing a serious threat to the Modi’s much vaunted Vande Bharat project. Usually a cow or buffalo suffers serious injuries or dies after meeting a rail accident, but in the Vande Bharat’s case the animals have been inflicting damages on the face of the trains. Nothing could be more bizarre than this. The high speed express train service between the capital cities of Gujarat and Maharashtra was launched on September 30 by Modi. Since the day of introduction three incidents took place in Modi’s Gujarat. In all these incidents though the passengers were not hurt the train’s front portion suffered damages. This obviously raises question on the quality of material and the work. It is strange that the bonnet of the trains were damaged in the clash with the animals.
Supporters of Modi are of the view that the issue of accident was unnecessarily being given prominence. But they cannot shut their eyes to the fact that the RPF has never issued this type of fatwa. Front cattle boards of the trains usually suffered damages and subsequently they were repaired at the workshops. The owners were never threatened with legal action and punishment.
The Railway officials rightly hold the view that such incidents increase the possibility of rail accidents and can even lead to derailment. They not only cause disruption of rail traffic and loss of property of the railways, but also pose danger to passengers. True enough before resorting to this nature of populist measure Modi should have exercised caution in undertaking this project. His aides should have studied in depth the feasibility and the security compressions before launching it. This project was undoubtedly adopted in damn haste simply to enhance the political and leadership image of Modi. Ironically this is for the first time railways is facing such threat syndrome.
The notice strangely advises the village sarpanch to conduct an awareness campaign for villagers living near the railway tracks and also catch and send these animals to gaushalas built by the administration or social organisations and also make the residents of the village aware of this in the gram sabha meetings. The idea is presumptuous as hardly gaushalas exist near the railway tracks.
The Railway has taken the task on war footing and if the officials are to be relied the RPF has already conducted 1,023 awareness campaigns this year at vulnerable locations. The alacrity of the officials is really remarkable. Just within a month they could manage to hold 50 interactive sessions with the sarpanchs of villages located along the railway tracks to avoid the incidents of cattle hit.
The next step the railways is contemplating to initiate is to stop dumping of garbage along the railway tracks by the people which is attracts the cattle. For this the railways have been planning to involve the local municipal bodies and the government administration. They will ensure that garbage is not dumped near the rail tracks, they will also coordinate with these bodies and local police to prevent the movement of stray cattle near railway tracks.
Incidentally the Vande Bharat service also met with its first technical fault within a month of its introduction. The train going to Varanasi from Delhi, (Train no. 22436) suffered a failure due to a bearing defect in the traction motor of the C8 coach between Dankaur and Wair stations of North Central Railway. The passengers had to be shifted to Shatabdi Express at the station. A detailed enquiry is yet to be done. Due to development of a flat tyre of 80 mm, the train was moved at a restricted speed of 20 kilometre per hour up to Khurja. The experts say that traction motor bearings are key to the safe operation of high-speed trains, but they are also the most vulnerable component of the motor. An undetected bearing failure may cause serious accidents, (IPA Service)