Those Asking for Suresh Prabhu’s Resignation Should Look at These Numbers First

The recent train derailments have saddened the nation. Loss of innocent lives in such a manner is bound to raise questions on the functioning of the railways and appeals to take to task the ones responsible for the lapses. But there are some people and most political parties demanding resignation of Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu. Media channels are vociferously blaming him for the accidents, while one Hindi news channel ran this headline – “‘Prabhu’ ke bharose nahi chal sakti railway.”

Before I counter these nonsensical demands, readers must look at the following numbers –

The numbers are extremely revealing. They show how Suresh Prabhu has within 2 years made great progress in making the railways safe for passengers.

During the last 11 years and a bit more, collisions during a year were highest at 13 in 2008-09 and lowest at 3 in 2015-16 (rule of Modi government). Average collisions during UPA rule were almost 8; during the 3 years and 3 months of the Modi government it stands at 4, a drop of almost 50%.

As far as derailments are concerned, the highest during this time period were 100 in 2007-08 when Lalu Prasad Yadav was the railway minister (ironically, he’s asking for Suresh Prabhu’s resignation but he himself never offered to resign). Total derailments during these 8 years of UPA were 598 at an average of 75 per year. During Modi government’s tenure, this number has fallen to 67, a fall of 10.66%. This may not seem like a major drop but one has to take into consideration that the traffic is continuously rising and some of the recent derailments have also been acts of sabotage, not negligence on the part of Railways.

Manned Level Crossing (MLC) incidents were again highest in 2007-08, and for the first time they stood at 0 in 2016-17 (under Suresh Prabhu). Average MLC accidents under UPA were 6.5; under the Modi government it is 3.70 – a fall of 43%.

Incidents of fire in trains also made rather frequent news a few years back, but now it has almost dwindled away. Most such incidents took place in 2012-13 (under UPA), and none took place in 2015-16 (NDA rule) which makes it the first such year in the last 11 years. Average fire in train incidents during UPA rule were 4.5 per year; during NDA ruleit is 2.15 – again a drastic fall of 52.2%. No credit to Suresh Prabhu?

Another area where a visible difference can be seen is accidents related to Unmanned Level Crossing (UMLC). Even though road vehicle users were responsible for most such incidents, credit must go to the Modi government for eliminating UMLC’s at a rapid pace. Most UMLC accidents stood at 72 in 2006-07 and the least at 20 in 2016-17 (under Suresh Prabhu). The average of such accidents during the UPA rule was 58.25 per year while the same during the rule of Modi government has been 31.38; fall of 46.12%. Even miscellaneous accidents have been continuously falling.

If the overall figures for accidents are compared, the average number of accidents during UPA rule stood at 155 per year while under the Modi government the number is 111, a fall of 28.38%.

As is written in the picture, Accidents Per Million Train Kilometres has come down from 0.23 in 2006-07 to 0.10 in 2015-16 and further to 0.09 in 2016-17. This is despite the ever-increasing rise in rail traffic.

This article isn’t meant as an excuse for the loss of lives in the recent derailments. The people responsible must be punished. The victims and their families must be duly compensated.

The motive behind this article is to highlight the hypocrisy of the media who’ve rarely made such a brouhaha during the many more accidents during the rule of the UPA. They have never highlighted the improvement that Suresh Prabhu is bringing to the railways but are the first to shout when something goes wrong. It seems that there exists a hidden agenda for some, while the rest simply don’t know the facts. The natural question that arises is – Are the media-people any less vultures than some of our politicians?

Now, those people questioning Suresh Prabhu must understand that making our railways safe is a hell of a task. It is a continuous process and not an on/off button that the Modi government can simply switch off and prevent all accidents. We must keep patience. In fact, it might be impossible for anyone to completely rid our labyrinthine of accidents.

Had there been no improvement in the situation or, had the situation worsened under the current government, then questioning and even demanding accountability from the railway minister himself was justified. But now it’s not because Suresh Prabhu has done more in these few years toward transforming the railways than was done in the decade that the UPA ruled.

To end – ‘Suresh Prabhu ke bharosepe chalegi railways.’

Vinayak Jain