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Even as the investigators continue to look for the reason behind the recent train fire near Nellore in Andhra Pradesh, Headlines Today conducted its own investigation to find out the possible causes. The investigation highlighted some shocking facts involving the functioning of Indian Railways. As many as 32 passengers were killed as a sleeper class coach (S11) of the Tamil Nadu Express had caught fire on July 30. The Headlines Today investigation found that what happened on Tamil Nadu Express might happen again owing to pathetic and negligent maintenance of trains at the railway yards. Headlines Today visited the yard in Chennai's Basin Bridge area where the fateful train was last maintained. The investigation proved that the accident could have been easily avoided had the train not been ill maintained. The train underwent a primary maintenance here before leaving for Delhi. Headlines Today found that only a few... Read more...
of the prescribed 25 maintenance staff actually work on the train. Only 6 pit lines have the capacity to check the 24-coach train. The shocking confession of A maintenance staffer, who did the primary maintenance of the Tamil Nadu Express before it left for Delhi, was enough to raise the alarm. "I worked on it like always. Don't think there is any problem with my maintenance. But the reality is we don't have the facility. There are no equipments or parts for doing the maintenance. There is nothing in the store. They don't have any equipment. How do we maintain? If there is northing, senior officers say use it from other particles. There is lack of staff," admitted the maintenance worker. The rail yard is an example of how Indian Railways maintains its trains. All outbound trains from Tamil Nadu come to the train care centre in Chennai for maintenance. At least 15 trains are given certification everyday. Ironically though the infrastructure is nowhere close to what is required. "Many fall down... even have been injured. We have informed many times. When there is no safety for us how do we ensure safety of the passengers," asked another maintenance worker at the train care centre. In every department negligence and lapse was evident. While the staff strength at the train care centre should be at least 167, only 120 were available. What was more shocking was the lack of security around the train care centres. Headlines Today investigative team could just walk in the centre with the cameras. That shows how vulnerable the trains are to any kind of plant. The Indian Railways, it seems, is plagued by politics. The passenger safety is compromised because of politicians' internal fights. Soon after the Nellore incident, secretary of Tiruchirappalli-based Consumer Protection Council S. Pushpavanam had said: "(Dinesh) Trivedi declared priority for safety, immediately he was changed... Railways are in mess. Every organisation has a balance sheet. Have you seen railwaysâ balance sheet?" It is obvious that if such is the callous attitude of the Indian Railways, there is every reason for passengers to be a worried lot. "Safety (of railways) has never been assured in India. There is nothing called as safety or security," alleged a railway passenger, Indra Kumar.