New Delhi: India’s railways recorded less than 100 accidents in 2017-18–their best-ever safety record–as Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed, picking it as one of his government’s success stories.
But the decline–from 118 in 2013-14 to 73 in 2017-18–is 38%, and not 62%, as the prime minister claimed.
The claim does not take into account the fact that rail accidents killed three times more people over four years of National Democratic Alliance (NDA) rule than over the five years leading to 2014 when the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance was in power, according to government data tabled by the NDA government in Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, the upper and lower houses of the parliament.
In the absence of month-wise data for analysis, the figures for the accidents and casualties during the NDA government also include data for April-May 2014–two months of UPA government.
On their websites, the BJP and Narendra Modi released a series of infographics on the achievements of the NDA government across various schemes on May 25, 2018, on completing four years in the power. “Redefining Safety Measures in Railways” was one in the series.
We sent an email seeking comment from the minister of railways, Piyush Goyal, on May 31, 2018. There was no reply despite two follow-up emails. The story will be updated if and when he responds.
The railways registered 677 train accidents that killed 102 people and injured 765 others over five years to 2013-14. There were 346 accidents in the four years to 2018, the NDA tenure, almost half as many as the numbers recorded during the UPA’s last tenure. But 412 people were killed in these accidents–three times more than during the UPA’s time in office–and 908 were injured.
The year 2016-17 was the deadliest for the Indian Railways with 238 casualties, IndiaSpend reported on August 22, 2017. Most accidents that year were derailments.
Track failures and subsequent derailments are caused by twin factors–-excessive traffic and underinvestment in rail infrastructure–IndiaSpend reported on April 3, 2017. As much as 40% of the Indian Railways’ 1,219 sections are utilised beyond capacity, we reported.
Another claim Modi made was that in the four years of his government, 5,469 unmanned level crossings (UMLCs) were eliminated.
This is true. However, there are 5,792 more UMLCs to be eliminated. These will be gone by March 2020, Railway Board chairman Ashwani Lohani told the Press Trust of India (PTI) on April 26, 2018.
The government plans to remove 1,600 UMLCs in 2018-19, according to the PTI.
(Tripathi is a principal correspondent with IndiaSpend and FactChecker.)
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