The chain of cause and effect
Yesterday, this paper had a front-page story on how a major tragedy could have been averted if the chain in the 19019 Mumbai to Dehradun Express was functioning properly. As everybody has read by now, a major fire broke out in the train, moments after it left Dahanu station, claiming many lives.
Inquiries had revealed that the chain had been pulled in S2 coach after it left Goregaon, over some passenger fracas. Instead of fixing the rod that had come out of the socket due to the chain pulling, the staff did a slipshod, temporary job.
A miscommunication resulted in the chain not being fixed later too, and so when the fire broke out, the chain could not be pulled. Similarly, because of the fire, the chains in the other two coaches malfunctioned, so that the train could not be stopped in time.
It is shocking that the train was allowed to move with a malfunctioning chain. The chain pulling is the first defense of the passenger and in fact, the only recourse to stop the train. It has to be in top condition at all times and functioning of the chain is to be checked regularly. Those responsible for any kind of malfunctioning of the chain need to be accountable and punished.
Having a non-functioning chain is like not having brakes in a car. While of course, the motorman can stop the train, he does not know what is happening in the coaches. The passengers too need to have that option; in fact, it is vital that they do have it.
We have read sporadic reports earlier, about how passengers have complained that they have pulled the chain and the train refused to stop. While this has not resulted in a tragedy of this proportion most of the time, there have been unfortunate incidents because trains did not stop. A panic situation can quickly escalate into a dangerous one in a confined space like the coach of a train and so, the option to stop the train is an absolute must.
As it is, the railways cannot pride itself on the clarity of announcements; most of the time, passengers cannot understand them or they are simply absent. Besides, we have seen coaches where there have been robberies, molestation incidents and even attempts to murder.
A functioning chain can make that difference between life and death as we have seen in this case. We have to see if we have learnt any lessons from this.