Sir — The accident involving the Goa Express and the Mewar Express shows the callousness of railway authorities. The staff responsible for sending out the wrong signal should be dismissed from service, and given exemplary punishment. An inquiry needs to be conducted into the failure of safety rules, and suitable measures should be adopted to avoid future accidents.
It seems as though the railways minister thinks that her job is done once she has ordered an inquiry. Has she ever gone through the reports submitted after previous accidents and implemented the safety measures suggested? The compensation paid to the victims and their families can never replace what has been lost. It is also unfortunate that precious public money would now have to be spent on repairing damaged railway property.
M.M. Kale, Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh
Sir — Train accidents are waiting to happen. There was no global positioning system or anti-collision device on the trains that crashed near Mathura recently. The automatic signalling system was taken to be foolproof. But it failed. How can we to rely on the railways any longer?
Shiv Shanker Almal, Calcutta
Sir — The recent train crash near Mathura has brought several issues to the fore that need to be addressed urgently. First, what has happened to the dream project that the Indian Railways undertook of installing anti-collision devices on all the locomotives operating on all the trunk routes? These devices are guided by satellites and have been developed to prevent such tragedies as the one that took place near Mathura. These systems stop locomotives when two trains are moving on the same track from opposite directions or if a train is moving on a line that has been already occupied by another train. The devices then automatically apply the brakes and thus avert accidents.
Instead of depending on auto-signalling exclusively, which can result in mishaps like this, the railways must make a strict rule that there must be a gap of at least three stations between two trains going in the same direction.
The efforts of ordinary people and the army personnel who rushed to the spot to help the passengers deserve applause.
Ratan Sharga, Lucknow
Grow with caution
Sir — I agree with the editorial, “All the hoops” (Oct 20), that genetically manufactured crops are no doubt one of the most exciting advances made in biotechnology and genetic engineering. However, this discovery is a double-edged sword and should be used with caution. Bt cotton no doubt tripled the production of the crop in India, but farmer suicides in the cotton-growing regions of the country did not decrease. Pest-resistant Bt brinjal is now leading the way with promised innovations.
The story lies in the age-old technique of storing the seeds of part of the crop. Traditionally, seeds are preserved for sowing in the next season. Usually, this does not hold true for GM crops. A ‘stopper gene’ is sometimes inserted in the gene during its modification to render the seeds sterile. This gene can get transmitted to other crops in the locality through cross-pollination, thus making other seeds useless for the next season as well.
The seeds of GM crops have to purchased afresh at the beginning of each planting season. The farmers are thus completely dependent on the GM seed supplying agency, which controls the prices of the seeds. This perhaps explains the high rate of unrecovered farm loan and the tragedy of the farmers who grew Bt cotton.
Chinmoy Chakrabarti, Calcutta
Sir — The borders between Jharkhand and West Bengal are reportedly not secured as far as the movements of the Maoists are concerned. Similarly, the borders between Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh or Jharkhand and Orissa may also be insecure. India has to bother about international borders as well. So how many borders is India to secure?
Indifferent governments and a corrupt bureaucracy did not allow welfare to reach the tribal people for years. But now they are refusing to keep quiet. Things have to come such a pass that the threat has to be tackled ruthlessly. In the process, some innocent villagers are inevitably going to be harmed. However, if there is an alternative solution to the Maoist problem, the nation would be grateful to be told about it.
N.K. Das Gupta, Calcutta