Government of India Ministry of Railways (Railway Board)
Corporate Safety Plan (2003 - 2013)
'The White Paper on Safety on the Indian Railways' presented in Parliament in April 2003, offered a review of safety performance of the Indian Railways, in terms of accidents occurring on the system during the last 40 years, with a special reference to the last decade. The highlights of the paper revolved around modernization of infrastructure viz. track, bridges, rolling stock etc. and examination of the role of ?human element?, specially that of ?failure of railway staff? in accidents. It has also gone into issues related to accident inquiry, fixing up of responsibility and recommendations made by various inquiry committees and Commissions. The document has also raised certain vital issues, for which public response is expected to facilitate resolving the issues. The White Paper has highlighted all aspects about safety on the Indian Railways, normally not deliberated in public.
The need for a Corporate Safety Plan has been experienced for quite some time. It was found necessary to prepare a safety blue print, based on the various factors like technological inputs, work culture, managerial focus and required investments etc. The Railway Safety Review Committee also recommended preparation of a Corporate Safety Plan.
The Corporate Safety Plan states the objectives, strategies and targets for which the IR would be striving in the next decade. The document encompasses the priorities of the safety related works and indicates a broad timeframe to complete them along with assessed approximate requirement of financial investments.
While the endeavour is to minimize fatalities in accidents, the plan objectives can be treated as an intermediate stage in our efforts to realize a vision of accident-free and casualty-free IR system. Though achieving a situation of accident-free system is a herculean task, a realistic and analytical approach has been adopted while planning all necessary steps projecting the required investments in this labour intensive, resource-strapped mammoth organization.
The Corporate Safety Plan of the IR (2003-2013) also envisages a safety action plan directed towards continuous reduction in risk level to its customers, implementation of suggested system reforms, imbibing better safety culture, enhancement of asset reliability etc. This covers continuous rehabilitation and modernization of assets, qualitative changes in men and machines, induction of appropriate technologies in support of human efforts etc.
To sustain the public pronouncements that safety is not compromised for shortage of funds, it needs to be appreciated that everything has an inbuilt cost in it. Financially, the IR is out of woods, but is still not in a position of ease, comfort and adequate surplus. Although Budgetary support is increasing still not coming up as per requirement. Market borrowing although has become cheaper yet it has its inherent limitations. Resource mobilization through non-budgetary initiatives is slow moving. Therefore, productivity and efficiency have to attain new peaks of excellence for internal generation of resources.
Investment policy and norms are getting re-focussed in this pursuit. Creation of SRSF was the first bold step. To give more and more safety shelter, it appears necessary to reorient our investment policies and sustain the system by not permitting any accumulation of arrears of replacement at any stage. Safety related projects have to be clearly defined, planned, funded and executed. Maximum has to be squeezed from the minimum. At the same time, railway assets must not become bottomless pits for constant investments.
Challenges of higher safety are interlinked with work culture, the central point being oft-discredited ?human element?. This is the element, which can turn scarcity into prosperity. Again, this is the component, live and vibrant, which is capable of offering better and economic options, and still usher in greater safety. But this is the element, which also functions under great stress and strain and deserves to be supported by technologies.
All this is to aim at reduction in fatalities in train accidents. However, a major share of fatalities is contributed by road vehicle users in mishaps at level crossings. It is essential that greater discipline is enforced, for which cooperation of society at large is solicited.
As announced by Hon?ble Prime Minister on 15th August 2003, Indian Railways will go for ?Technology Mission on Railway Safety? in collaboration with Department of Science and Technology (Ministry of Human Resource Development), IIT/Kanpur and the Consortium of Industries for developing appropriate technology to help achieve higher level of safety in train operation.
Funds requirement for safety enhancement works outlined in the Corporate Safety Plan is Rs. 31,835 crores, which includes funds already available under Special Railway Safety Fund (SRSF) and Railway Safety Fund (RSF). Non-budgetary initiatives will have to be stepped up to meet the additional requirement. A special safety scheme may also have to be resorted to in this regard, for which assistance of the Planning Commission and the Ministry of Finance would be sought.
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