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Railways Require Odisha Acumen

Bhubaneswar: When the Odisha Government’s rescue operations in the train crash incident at Bahanaga in Balasore district was praised by none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi, time has come for the Ministry of Railways to stress on the human resources development along with upgrading technology.

Indian Railways need to skill its manpower after its Minister Ashiwini Vaishnaw revealed that the Balasore train accident happened due to changes in the electronic interlocking system.

It is good that the Indian Railways used technology and installed electronic interlocking devices. But, it might not have trained the people properly who were operating it. While the investigation is on whether human error was there in the non-functioning of the system, it could safely said that the people in railways, particularly working at the field level need to be skilled and the old habits need to change.

Railways in fact employ the maximum number of people. Starting from work sarkars to labourers, all working in the railway operations need to have minimum safety knowledge for providing a safe journey of the people. Prime Minister Shri Modi during his accident site visit on Saturday said that this accident was a lesson for the nation and more stress would be given to passenger safety.

Therefore, in order to enhance passenger safety, the Railways need to upgrade and implement new technologies besides skilling its personnel, even those working on contractual basis.

Meanwhile, the Odisha Government reaps huge praises from different quarters for the successful management of rescue and relief operations. Thanks Odisha’s experience in handling the natural calamities like cyclones, flood or for that matter the COVID-19 pandemic. The state’s operation was clinical and target oriented.

As soon as the information regarding the train accident was received, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik took no time to ask Revenue and Disaster Management Minister Pramila Mallik and ACS Revenue & Disaster Management SRC Satyabrata Sahu to rush to the accident site and monitor the rescue operation.

Both of them reached the site and SRC Shri Sahu coordinated the rescue operation. He was on the accident site all the fateful night and next 2 days along with the rescue operation team.

DG Fire Services Sidhanshu Sarangi along with Fire Services and ODRAF Team worked relentlessly in the crisis.

Principal Secretary Hemant Sharma and OMC MD Balwant Singh were helping out the district Administration in a big way with a proactive Collector Dattatraya Bhausaheb Shinde. Team spirit worked wonders.

Bishnupada Sethi, Principal Secretary Higher Education mobilized more than 1000 volunteers from NSS and Red Cross, who worked relentlessly on the spot helping the victims.

Chief Secretary Pradeep Jena and Secretary to CM V K Pandian were monitoring the arrangements every hour along with Team of senior officers led by Development commissioner Anu Garg.

This apart, taking the line of calamity operations, Odisha government rushed the personnel of ODRAF, Fire service and NDRF teams for the rescue operation which was later joined by the Army’s engineering wing jawans. The district administration and local police took control of the situation and safely completed the rescue operation while Railway people carried out their restoration work.

It was in fact considered as the biggest train mishap in the country in recent times as at least 275 people were killed while over 1100 passengers got injured. Retrieving dead bodies and rescuing the injured persons were big tasks for the rescue team. This is because, nobody in fact knows whether there is life in the person whom they are rescuing. Therefore, one has to be very careful in this regard. The personnel of ODFAR, NDRF and Odisha fire service are quite skilled to perform the act for their past experience while dealing with calamities.

Odisha Government’s community involvement policy in natural calamities seems to have worked a lot as a large number of people thronged at the accident site and started rescuing the passengers before arrival of any official or police.

 The enthusiasm and attitude among the people to help the persons in crisis came to the fore at the Balasore train accident as the volunteers worked day and night without food and water in hot and humid conditions. This kind of spirit in public is likely to have come from their experience of working during calamities. This is not that only government people do the public work, here the Balasore accident showed the way that the people from among the public also take the risk of helping victims of train accidents.

While the entire focus is on the rescue, relief and restoration activities, the real heros who worked without food and water in hot humid conditions, remain unnoticed to the open eye. They are real heroes and not the ones who are seen on silver screens.

The Odisha government also showed the way to others for its manner of handling the situation and completing rescue and relief works within 48 hours of the incident. It also took the right decision to preserve the unclaimed bodies as of the 275 deaths, corps of only 108 people were identified. As the task become difficult for the state government due to the requirement of more morgues, the state government drew attention of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who made an on the spot inspection of the accident site.

Odisha’s presentation of facts was so specific that PM Shri Modi was forced to pick up a mobile phone to talk to the Union Health Minister. By the evening, the authorities of the AIIMS, Bhubaneswar, started preparation to preserve the unclaimed bodies. This is not all, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya also rushed to Bhubaneswar and took the responsibility of preserving the unclaimed bodies at AIIMS, Bhubaneswar. This is not all, the Union health Ministry also sent a batch of 17 expert doctors from Delhi to look after preservation of dead bodies.

Overall, the state government dominated in the both rescue and relief operation while Railways also proved its worth by restoring both the Up and Down line within 48 hours. Anyway, the train accident in Balasore, is in some way an eye opener as stated by the Prime Minister. All the states including the railway ministry should take a lesson from the incident and prepare themselves to face the challenge if any.