At least 275 people have died following a horrific train accident in the Balasore district in the Indian state of Odisha on June 2. Over 1,000 people were also injured in what is being called the worst rail accident in India in 20 years.
While the Balasore train accident is the worst India has seen for many years in terms of its sheer scale, Indian Railways has continued to witness routine accidents, both “consequential” (entailing serious repercussions including loss of human life) and otherwise.
The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) published a report in 2022 for the year ending March 2021. According to the report, the railway administration on the regional level did not adhere to the timeline prescribed by the Railway Board for completing inquiries in 49 percent of derailment cases. It also revealed that Indian Railways neglected workforce vacancies and managed them through nominal outsourcing.
The report revealed that track inspections were conducted in only 181 cases out of the required total of 350, indicating that almost 50 percent of the mandatory track safety inspections were neglected.
Just two days before the accident, The Hindu published an article highlighting how a staff shortage in Indian Railways was leading to major accidents. For instance, in the South East Central Railway, 35.99 percent of train drivers had duty shifts exceeding 12 hours in March, 34.53 percent in April, and 33.26 percent during the first half of May.