Indian Railways News

IRCTC removes juice brand after former railway minister complains of contamination

The Indian Railways’ catering wing, IRCTC, has delisted a juice brand after former railway minister Dinesh Trivedi complained that he was served a “contaminated” drink onboard a premium train.

Trivedi, who was travelling on board the Kathgodam-Delhi Shatabdi on Dussehra on September 30, was served lemon juice of a well-known brand, which, he said, had ‘kachra’ (contamination).

“The IRCTC (Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation) really needs to pull up its socks. The railways needs to put in checks and balances so that there is some accountability of its subsidiary departments,” Trivedi told PTI.

The railways has reacted to Trivedi’s complaint swiftly and delisted the brand pending laboratory investigation, IRCTC spokesperson Siddharth Singh said.

“We have delisted the agency pending lab investigation.

The brand will not be seen anymore on any train for the time being,” he said.

This incident comes months after a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) which revealed glaring lapses in rail catering services.

Trivedi said the rail minister could not be blamed for such lapses as the departments need to be held accountable.

He also rued that passengers do not protest enough about such issues and in a way they are also responsible for such a sorry state of affairs.

“Action must be taken against the caterer as well as the brand concerned. How can this ‘kachra’ be allowed to be served on trains? There should be an inspection at the factory where the juice was produced to see under what circumstances the drink was being churned out,” he said.

The TMC leader, who quit as the railway minister in 2012 after a controversy over his recommendation for the formation of a rail regulator to hike fares, said there must be surprise checks on vendors contracted by the national transporter.​

Piyush Goyal raps officials, FOB width to be soon extended

Railways min approves extension of 14 FOBs on WR; authorities to chalk out plans for new Parel-Elphinstone FOB which is expected to be ready next year.

The brutal death of 23 people in a stampede at Elphinstone Road station on Saturday was what the Indian Railways needed to wake up from their deep slumber. It was only after this unfortunate incident that a high-level meeting between the Indian Railways and state government machinery took place on Saturday for over 10 hours non-stop.

Sources said that the Union Railway Minister, Piyush Goyal, rapped railway officials for the inadequate measures taken. He also made sure that the state government and its agencies resolve their internal issues as soon as possible.

To begin with, senior railway officials said that they will now make a comprehensive plan for widening the foot-overbridge (FOB) at Elphinstone Road. “We will be studying the existing setup and chalk out plans for its expansion,” said a railway official. This decision is likely to be taken within a week.

At the site, where the stampede occurred, there is extra land next to the tracks which can be utilised for expanding the width of the FOB’s staircase. The existing width of this bridge is 5 meters while the width of the staircase is 2.1 meters. Now, they are looking at widening it further by another 2 meters or so. Sources said that Goyal approved the extension of 14 FOBs on the WR line. The New Parel-Elphinstone Road FOB is expected to be ready in a year for which Railways and the BMC are chalking out plans.

Work on the new FOB, too, will be taken up soon for which the railways and civic authorities will meet and discuss. Similarly, work on the Parel Terminus, too, will be expedited and WR officials clarified that the tender for this project was uploaded on September 29 morning.

BMC Commissioner Ajoy Mehta was also summoned by Piyush Goyal to discuss the intervention needed by the BMC.

The Commissioner of Police, Dattatray Padsalgikar, was also summoned by the railway minister for the meeting. Rehabilitation is one of the biggest need of the hour for railways. Sources said that the police has been asked to take a stern hand and ensure that railway land is cleared at the earliest. Of the Rs 11.3 crore for FOB’s in 2016-17, only Rs 1,000 was sanctioned in 2016-17 as tenders were yet to be floated.

Phool’ And ‘Pul’ (Bridge) Mix-Up Triggered Mumbai Stampede, Says Survivor

The deadly stampede that killed 23 people and left over 30 injured in Mumbai on Friday may have been triggered by the most unfortunate of mix-ups. A flower vendor’s cry of “phool gir gaya (flowers have fallen)” being mistaken as “pul gir gaya (the bridge has fallen)” might have caused the panic on a bridge linking two suburban train stations, a survivor has told investigators probing the incident, news agency PTI reported on Wednesday.

However, a senior railway official said they were yet to say for sure if this was the only cause of the accident during peak office hours on the narrow bridge connecting Elphinstone Road and Parel stations.

Railway officials, facing severe criticism for apparently ignoring warnings that a tragedy like this could occur, had launched an inquiry into the circumstances leading to the stampede, where vendors selling their flowers and other products are a common sight.

“A woman injured in the stampede told the inquiry panel yesterday that a flower vendor uttered the words ‘phool gir gaya’, which others mistook for ‘pul gir gaya’,” a senior Western Railway official was quoted as saying by PTI.

She told the inquiry panel that this set off panic among the crowd of people on the stairway and they started running, trampling others, Western Railway’s chief spokesperson Ravindra Bhakar said.

The 19-year-old woman, who was going to Vile Parle for her coaching classes, was stuck on staircase. She survived the stampede with some injuries and admitted to the KEM hospital in Parel and later discharged, he said.

Mr Bhakar, however, said it was too early to conclude that this was the only reason for the tragedy. “We will try to get detailed accounts of other injured passengers, locals who rescued them and witnesses as a part of our in-depth inquiry,” he said.

He also said the panel will find out if the stampede was sparked by rumours.

Some other survivors had claimed that a short circuit led to panic among the people crammed on the narrow bridge triggering the stampede.

Master Of Disguise, Serial Rajdhani Thief Caught. Name: Happy Singh

The Kota Railway Protection Force’s (RPF) 45-day-long search for a serial thief, who stole from passengers aboard the August Kranti and Rajdhani Express, which run between Mumbai and New Delhi, culminated in a ‘happy’ arrest. On October 1, they finally caught one Kulbeer Singh alias Happy Singh, who is wanted in at least three theft cases that occurred in August.

The Kota RPF’s search for Happy, 41, began on August 9, after the first case of train theft was registered, in which valuables worth Rs. 60,000 had been stolen from passengers. Another case popped up on August 16, when Rs. 10 lakh worth of belongings were stolen from 15 passengers. Another robbery attempt was made on August 29, but it was unsuccessful. The cops would later learn Happy was the crook that tied all three of these together.

The team formed to hunt for this train burglar comprised Kota RPF inspector Rajiv Kharab and head constables Vinod Kumar and Shishram Gurjar of the Crime Intelligence Branch – 2 of Kota. Their efforts to catch the thief bore fruit on October 1, when they arrested Happy from Ratlam, with help from local Government Railway Police (GRP).

One name was common

Kharab told mid-day, “It was a really tough task for us to identify the accused. We started with perusing the train reservation chart and noticed that on both days (August 9 and 16) one passenger named K Singh was common on both of them. Moreover, on those days, the said passenger had booked tickets for trains connected to Rajdhani from Hazrat Nizamuddin to Kota and then for a return journey after a gap of 20 minutes. While working on this, we also noticed that whenever there was a theft in any of the Mumbai Central-bound trains, Kulbeer Singh had travelled on them.”

With their suspicion rising on Happy, RPF officials contacted a Delhi-based rail ticket agent through whom he used to book AC II tickets. The agent said he’d been booking trains for Happy and his wife on different connected trains for a few routes since the last two months. He furnished Happy’s details to cops, including his mobile number.

Changing faces

According to Kharab, Happy was an impostor who kept changing his appearance for every major theft. On August 9, he’d stolen from three passengers dressed as a turbaned Sikh man, while on August 16, he stole from 15 passengers wearing a moustache and a cap. Then, he changed his look and sported a French beard, after which he unsuccessfully attempted a third heist on August 29. It failed because of increased patrolling post the August 16 incident.

Following this, a team visited his hometown of Amritsar and learned that Happy was not the only crook in the family. He and his wife were habitual offenders in such crimes, thus earning the moniker of ‘Bunty and Babli’. They were wanted by the local Civil Police as well.

When the cops contacted Happy’s father Manjeet Singh, he said, “Since his second wedding, my son started committing such crimes with his new wife.” Cops are verifying whether his wife had a role to play in any of the train crimes. The cops also learned that he lived on rent in the states where he committed crimes.

Following this information, previous cases against him in Gwalior, Jhansi, Jaipur, Kanpur and other routes also came to the fore. Cops were continuously monitoring his location through his mobile phone. He was very sharp in avoiding arrested or being identified. Just before he was caught, he’d changed his appearance once again, and was clean shaven.

On October 1, Happy was finally arrested in Ratlam by the local GRP. After enquiry, he confessed to having committed thefts in Rajdhani trains, He was produced before a court, which remanded him in police custody till October 10. The cops are now recovering the ornaments he’d stolen.

IRCTC Delists Juice Brand After Former Rail Minister Dinesh Trivedi Complains of Contamination

New Delhi: Indian Railways is working with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to devise safety mechanisms to make travel by trains more safer, Union minister Piyush Goyal said on Thursday.

The minister said that he met ISRO Chairman A S Kiran Kumar few days back and Indian Railways along with RailTel are working together to explore use of space technology for safety in railways.

“Safety is very pressing and urgent need. The discussion which we had was very eye-opening in some sense for me but also very exciting in terms of possibilities that open for engaging with space technologies that ISRO has developed, helping in bringing safer travel to Indian railways,” Goyal said at India Mobile Congress.

There have been a slew of train derailment incidents last month which saw the exit of Suresh Prabhu as the railway minister in the Cabinet reshuffle early this month.

Talking about technology at the event, Goyal said railways has been an early adopter of computers which could have been also expanded for various operational processes like safety.

“Way back in 1960s, railways started using computers in a small way and by 1985 you had passenger reservations system all computerised. I remember banking started using computers in 1990s. It was quite an interesting fact for me that in late 1960s railways started using computers. I am delighted about that but I do wish we had expanded those frontiers much to bring technology for safety for example,” Goyal said.

He said modern technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning are going to change the world works and India has opportunity to look at what is latest across the world and bring it to the country.

“I have asked railtel to look at a programme to connect thousands of railway stations with wi-fi… we can actually provide also the villages around railway stations with wi-fi connectivity and get rural India also connected with new age technology. Let’s give them same kind of opportunity that our children in cities are enjoying,” Goyal said.

The minister said that round the clock access of connectivity and electricity is dream of billions of Indians and the government is making efforts to achieve it.

Former Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi Exposes Poor Hygiene in Premium Trains

Former railway minister Dinesh Trivedi has exposed the rot in the railways and hit out at the government for the poor standards of hygiene maintained on trains, including premium category ones like the Shatabdi Express, by showing the contaminated beverages being served to passengers.

Trivedi boarded the Shatabadi to Delhi on Saturday and showed to CNN-News18 the dirty water and lemon juice that was served to him. “Today is Dussehra. I just opened the Fresca lime water and see what I found inside. Have a look at it. This is what we are supposed to drink,” he said in a video, as he displayed the juice pack with grime at its base

He rued the fact that fares have been hiked so much but even then clean water is not available on trains. Slamming the BJP government at the Centre, he said the people must protest against the poor facilities or they will continue to suffer.

“We too are responsible for this as we do not protest enough. We take a shot of it, it runs in your channel, people will tweet it and railways will say this is what the company has given us,” he said and demanded that the government cancel Fresca’s contract.

The TMC leader, who was sacked as railway minister in 2012 after proposing formation of a rail regulator for fare hikes, said that there must be surprise checks on vendors contracted by the railways. The government had instituted a new catering policy this year to improve the quality of food. At the end of the video, Trivedi said that he may begrudgingly accept the poor quality of food but there can be no compromise when it comes to safety.

The railway ministry thanked CNN-News18 for highlighting the issue and tweeted that it would take action on the complaint. “Catering supervisor has met Dinesh Trivedi Ji on the train regarding this issue. We will be taking further action based on this complaint. Thanks to @CNNnews18 FOR HIGHLIGHTING this issue,” the ministry of railways wrote.

Can Railways Be Held Responsible for Criminal Negligence in Mumbai Elphinstone Bridge Stampede?

The stampede at Mumbai’s Elphinstone Road railway station foot overbridge, which killed 23 and injured many more, appears to be a case of criminal negligence by authorities as repeated petitions by over a hundred commuters in the past two years were ignored.

But can those who have lost their loved ones in a man-made disaster ever hope for justice beyond the customary ‘compensation’ amount, announced by politicians to placate an angry city? What if Mumbaikars, a collective spirit often invoked by powers that be to escape accountability, were to press charges of criminal negligence against the railway authorities?

“Proving criminal negligence in a case like this is a million dollar question,” said Justice Bellur Narayanaswamy Srikrishna, a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India who headed the Srikrishna Commission which investigated causes and apportioned blame for the Bombay Riots of 1992–93.

“Criminal trial is complicated. It can be an offence under the Indian Penal Code only if it is a case of criminal negligence. Criminal negligence is something that is much higher than not doing one’s job… It appears there was a sudden shower and people ran helter skelter. It is true that the bridge was narrow and not intended to take so many people at the same time. Now, whether this can amount to criminal negligence is a million dollar question,” Justice Srikrishna explained.

“If the bridge was about to fall and railway officials had neglected it, there would have been a clear case of criminal negligence. But in this case the bridge was not falling. The Uphaar tragedy was a criminal negligence because people were inside the cinema hall and there was no exit. That was a criminal act and hence fire regulations are strict,” the eminent jurist explained.

He further said that officers from railway’s top brass cannot be removed because criminal law lacks the element of ‘vicarious liability’. “In criminal law, there is nothing like vicarious liability. I cannot be held for what somebody ought to have done or has failed to do. The chairman of the railway board is not expected to come and check the strength of every bridge. Morally, may be yes, but legally I doubt,” said Justice Srikrishna.

But has legal position in such cases always remained limited to compensation for the victims?

On November 21, 2016, UP police had lodged a suo motu FIR against railway employees in connection with the Pukhrayan rail accident. At least 145 persons died after 14 coaches of Indore-Patna Rajendra Nagar Express derailed in Kanpur Dehat district. Blaming unknown railway personnel, the police pressed Sections 304 (A), 338 and 337 of the Indian Penal Code besides slapping Sections 154 and 151 under the Railways Act.

IPC Section 304(A) amounts to causing death by negligence while Sections 338 and 337 relate to causing grievous hurt by endangering lives. Section 154 and 151 of the Railways Act relate to endangering the safety of rail passengers and damaging railway property.

These sections can be invoked in this case too, but proving a case of such nature against authorities is very difficult.

Asim Sarode, a practitioner at the Bombay High Court and a human rights activists said, “Victims often don’t themselves go to the extent of filing a case under the above sections as most of the times police is not cooperative.”

“Basically, it’s a case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder if there is constant neglect. A writ petition under Article 32 can also be filed in the Supreme Court citing violation of fundamental right. But holding certain department or a person responsible is very difficult. It’s very difficult to hold the government responsible for such inaction. Hence, this lacunae is crying for an urgent legal reform,” Sarode said.

A similar case of gross infrastructural negligence had come to light in Mumbai just a month ago when the city was flooded with incessant rains. Dr Deepak Amrapurkar drowned in an open manhole outside his house. A PIL filed by the Retail Traders Welfare Association sought criminal prosecution against municipal corporation officials for death of the doctor due to their alleged negligence.

The petition sought directions to the police commissioner, who is one of the respondents, to register an FIR for criminal negligence under Section 304 A of the IPC against Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta and other municipal officers.

Can such an action be taken against the authorities responsible for the expansion of Elphinstone footover bridge?

According to Justice Srikrishna, it’s very difficult to prove in a court of law.

Even Justice Mukul Mudgal, former judge of the Delhi High Court and former Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court said that “following the Uphaar verdict, compensation has become a must but whether at all to rake up charges of criminal negligence depends upon the detailed facts of the case. It is difficult to prove.”

In fact, the Delhi High Court had recently differentiated between an “untoward incident and an act of criminal negligence” and had thereby denied compensation to victims stating that it was not a case of criminal negligence.

The court was hearing an appeal filed under Section 23 of the Railway Claims Tribunal Act, 1987, challenging an order passed in May 2016 by the Railway Claims Tribunal. The tribunal had denied compensation for the death of a passenger who had fallen from the train.

“Negligence will not disentitle grant of compensation under the Railways Act. However, once the negligence becomes a criminal negligence and self-inflicted injury, compensation cannot be granted,” Justice Valmiki Mehta observed.

Railways to Engage With ISRO for Rail Safety

New Delhi: Indian Railways is working with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to devise safety mechanisms to make travel by trains more safer, Union minister Piyush Goyal said on Thursday.

The minister said that he met ISRO Chairman A S Kiran Kumar few days back and Indian Railways along with RailTel are working together to explore use of space technology for safety in railways.

“Safety is very pressing and urgent need. The discussion which we had was very eye-opening in some sense for me but also very exciting in terms of possibilities that open for engaging with space technologies that ISRO has developed, helping in bringing safer travel to Indian railways,” Goyal said at India Mobile Congress.

There have been a slew of train derailment incidents last month which saw the exit of Suresh Prabhu as the railway minister in the Cabinet reshuffle early this month.

Talking about technology at the event, Goyal said railways has been an early adopter of computers which could have been also expanded for various operational processes like safety.

“Way back in 1960s, railways started using computers in a small way and by 1985 you had passenger reservations system all computerised. I remember banking started using computers in 1990s. It was quite an interesting fact for me that in late 1960s railways started using computers. I am delighted about that but I do wish we had expanded those frontiers much to bring technology for safety for example,” Goyal said.

He said modern technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning are going to change the world works and India has opportunity to look at what is latest across the world and bring it to the country.

“I have asked railtel to look at a programme to connect thousands of railway stations with wi-fi… we can actually provide also the villages around railway stations with wi-fi connectivity and get rural India also connected with new age technology. Let’s give them same kind of opportunity that our children in cities are enjoying,” Goyal said.

The minister said that round the clock access of connectivity and electricity is dream of billions of Indians and the government is making efforts to achieve it.

Rail Ministry May Tweak Flexi Fare Scheme, Says Piyush Goyal

Union minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday said the flexi fare scheme of the Railways, which helped it earn an additional Rs 540 crore in less than a year, may be amended to ensure that it brings in revenues without taxing passengers.

“People have brought to my notice the issue of the flexi fare scheme. It could be made better in a way that it does not hurt people’s (pockets) and also meets the revenue target,” Goyal told reporters here.

He was responding to question on whether he had reviewed the flexi fare scheme after taking charge of the ministry earlier this month.

Asked if there could be any amendment to the scheme, Goyal said, “There is a possibility of making some change”.

The scheme, launched on September 9 last year and applicable to premium trains such as the Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto, allows 10 percent of the seats to be sold at normal fare and thereafter increasing it in phases by 10 percent with every 10 percent of berths sold, with a ceiling of a 50 percent rise.

The Railways earned an additional revenue of Rs 540 crore from September 2016 to June 2017 through the scheme, its data show.

The minister said the railways was also working to ensure efficient and faster services.

“It is proposed to increase the speed of around 700 trains with effect from November 1, 2017. This exercise will help in converting 48 Mail Express trains to the Super Fast Express category,” he said.

He said all stations and trains will have high speed wi-fi connectivity, but did not specify when this would be implemented.

To ensure transparency, all Railway Protection Force (RPF) staff and Travel Ticket Examiners (TTEs) will be in proper uniform while on duty, Goyal said.

The RPF staff will not check tickets, which is the function of the TTEs, but they will assist ticket checking squads, he said.

He added that India’s space research body, ISRO, had offered to map all railway assets.

“We also plan to eliminate 5,000 unmanned level crossings in a time-bound manner,” Goyal added.

Books on Indian Culture, Morals Now ‘Must’ at Railway Platform Kiosks

New Delhi: Books on Indian culture and morals are now to be displayed for sale at all platform kiosks, a new stall policy to all zonal railways has mandated.

In a commercial circular dated September 5, the Railway Board instructed all general managers to ensure that such books are found in railway stalls under the new Multi Purpose Stall (MPS) Policy.

“Zonal railways shall ensure that all MPS must display and sell books pertaining to Indian tradition, culture, values, morals and history,” the circular, a copy of which is with PTI, stated. All miscellaneous, curio stalls, bookstalls, chemist stalls will now come under the multi-purpose stalls, it said.

The policy supersedes the Bookstall Policy of 2004 which mandated that stalls will keep books on varied subjects like literature, history, children’s literature, fiction, travel, light reading, art, culture, current affairs, professional interests, national integration, etc. in English, Hindi and regional languages.

The MPS Policy was drafted after it was felt that there was a need to have a single outlet at platforms from where passengers can purchase non-catering items required during travel.

The stalls will also sell artefacts and items of local and regional importance, proprietary article depot items, drinking water, over-the-counter medicines and non-pharmacy items like dry milk powder, the circular said.

The policy also states that it will be mandatory for all such stalls to display and sell prominently the zonal railway timetable as well as the ‘Trains at a Glance’ publication and any other official publications of the railways.

Retailers, individuals, self-help groups can apply for a licence to run these stalls. The allotment will be done after a tendering process, the policy states.

The new policy has also made it mandatory for such stalls to have a point of sale or swipe machine for acceptance of credit and debit cards from all customers without charging any additional transaction charge for any sale above Rs 100. For amounts below Rs 100, payments through e-wallet would be acceptable, the policy said.