Celebrating a recovery
Sir — Christopher Reeve is reported to be on his way to a remarkable recovery, managing to wriggle his toes and fingers. That would make him one of two recovering Americans. The other one, of course, is George W. Bush, whose intelligence quotient has climbed up, if reports are to be believed, from minus something to nearly two. The country’s favourite comedian is now its blue-eyed boy. In a sense, Bush couldn’t have got anything better than the September 11 attacks to lift his sagging image. But with his curious habit of letting golden chances pass him by, he must be given credit for making the most of the opportunity. His improved IQ perhaps helped him realize that nothing brings the American people together better than an attack, real or perceived, on their notion of freedom. Whatever Sunanda K. Datta-Ray might feel (“Bush’s other agenda”, Sept 15), we are going to see more of the man who has not only begun to wriggle his toes, but even flex his muscles.
S.P. Purkayastha, Howrah
To keep a track
Sir — Another rail accident. This time involving the country’s prestigious Howrah-Delhi Rajdhani Express (“Howrah Rajdhani jumps rails”, Sept 10). But is there anything even near solace — a comforting word from either politicians or administrators — to suggest that tomorrow will be different' That action will be taken to make rail travel safer'
In contrast, we have ranting politicians soliciting their own political ends. From Calcutta, an opportunity to heighten a battle with the minister for railways. From Patna, an opportunity to castigate an opposition party leader. From Delhi, an opportunity to distance the government from culpable homicide.
When will this end' When will responsibility be owned and travel in India become safer'
Sekhar Raha, Dehradun
Sir — If indeed the Rajdhani accident was caused by the removal of fish-plates by miscreants, can railway officials answer why they did not take precautions for this area which has been a well-known haunt of these elements' I happened to witness on March 31, 2001, while returning from Delhi on the same train, the glass-panes of two windows shattering into pieces and falling all over me and my co-passengers. A little boy on the opposite seat, who was looking out of the window, had the presence of mind to duck his head so that the splinters did not enter his eyes. For the next couple of hours, other passengers let us share their seats while two railway employees covered the gaping holes on the two windows with cardboards and cello-tapes. Have railway officials ever bothered to find out why miscreants always single out this particular train and above all, who the miscreants are'
Arunima Saha, Calcutta
Sir — Is it not time the railways were rescued from politics, particularly the politics of bifurcations and trifurcations, creation of new zones and so on' There are certain points about the Rajdhani Express accident which need to be looked into: first, it defies logic to make a train run at 130 kilometres per hour over an 85-year old bridge, however strong it may be. When rains were lashing the area, it was the duty of the maintenance personnel to check the bridge more often. Second, bridges are examined once a year and then declared distressed. Currently, 526 bridges are distressed and have not yet been repaired. Third, poor track maintenance could also have caused the tragedy. Why can’t the tracks be examined in the intervals between the passage of two trains' Finally, will the railways minister ask for more funds for safety in his next budget'
Mahesh Rathi, Calcutta
Sir — The helpers of the pantry-car staff in the accident-hit Rajdhani Express have been denied compensation on the ground that they were “unofficial” workers. But once they have been allowed to travel on this train by the railways, they should be entitled to compensation like other passengers and railway officials.
Chandrima Mukherjee, Asansol
Sir — Successive railway ministers have concentrated on flagging off new trains every year only to consolidate their vote banks, but little has been done to improve the century-old railway bridges and tracks. Issues like double-lining and electrification of railway lines have been put on the backburner in favour of the creation of new railway zones. Even after the imposition of a “safety tax”, there has been no let up in accidents.
Bikash Banerjee, Durgapur
Sir — If it is mandatory to wear seat belts while driving in Calcutta at an average speed is 40 km per hour, shouldn’t it also be made compulsory in a train which is moving at 130 km per hour' In the case of an accident, this will minimize casualty, since the passengers sleeping on the top berths will not fall down and get injured.
T.S. Walia, Calcutta
Sir — Two rail bridges constructed during the British period over the rivers Kangsabati and Silabati in the Kharagpur-Adra line need thorough check-up and maintenance. The Bhubaneswar-New Delhi Rajdhani Express, some superfast expresses and other local trains run on this line. The bridges shake abnormally when the trains pass over them. Moreover, being a single line, the Kangsabati bridge takes the load of both the up and down trains.
Sudarsan Nandi, Midnapore