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Train mice menace under minister feet

New Delhi, Dec. 13: Rats in Indian trains do not discriminate between foreigners, commoners and VIPs and have menaced even railway minister Nitish Kumar.

“Even I have faced this problem. I was travelling to Patna by train when a rat came under my feet,” Kumar told CPM Lok Sabha MP from Kerala P. Abdullah Kutty.

Kutty had called on Kumar with a letter urging him to check the mice menace. The railway minister immediately asked the executive director in-charge of coaches and asked him to take steps to rid trains of rats.

In his letter, Kutty asserted that passengers are disturbed by mice running about in the coaches. He said even in an AC first class coach of a long-distance train he had seen rats scampering about at night, disturbing the sleeping passengers.

The CPM MP said he had seen foreign tourists in trains spend sleepless nights fearing a mice attack.

“I request you to save the travelling public from the rats. It is likely to cause a serious epidemic, including plague,” Kutty said in his letter.

Kumar was also caught on the wrong foot today in the Rajya Sabha when MP Deepankar Mukherji, citing a government note to the minister, alleged that the railways does not have the equipment for underwater inspection of bridges.

Kumar said some zones do have the equipment but cannot do a proper underwater analysis of the bridges as the equipment has not been maintained properly. There is a bridge inspection schedule, which covers the underwater examination of bridges, he pointed out.

Mukherji also alleged that the inspectors and engineers compile their reports without visiting the sites.

In reply to another query, the minister said Rs 325 crore had been allocated for the construction of railway bridges in various states during 2002-03.

When asked about measures being taken to prevent railway disasters, the minister said a task force had been constituted to suggest the infrastructure changes needed to make rail travel safer. He informed the House that the Khanna Committee, constituted to review railway safety, had highlighted some issues, which were being considered by the government.

“Do not have any misconception. The safety record of Indian Railways, as compared to the international record, is good,” Kumar asserted.

The accident rate has come down drastically from 1960-61. The rate stood at 0.065 per million train kilometres, against 5.5 per million train kilometres earlier, the minister informed the House.

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