On Monday, a man was crushed to death by a train at Karachi’s Cantt station.
Three weeks earlier, paramilitary soldier Azhar Iqbal, 42, died in a similar accident, while trying to get people off the tracks at the Drigh Road railway station. A few months ago, Levies man Ghulam Qadir also died on the railway tracks in Quetta, while patrolling near Mushkaf area on his motorcycle.
Tragically, in Pakistan, such deaths have become quite a common occurrence.
Drigh Road – the death stop
According to officials, the Drigh Road railway station has the highest number of accidents every year.
“Around 2.2 million people live along Drigh Road and there are many schools and colleges in this area,” says Irshad Baig, the public relations officer for Karachi’s Railways Police. “Children and young girls cross the tracks, to play or to get to their schools, despite our warnings.”
According to Baig, a high population in surrounding areas means more accidents.
To bring the number of fatalities down, IG Railways Police Ibn-e-Hussain has ordered deployment of law-enforcers at the station to help people get off the tracks quickly.
However, from just January to June 2013, 16 deaths have already taken place at this station.
Who hears the sirens?
According to Section 122 of the Railways Act, crossing railway tracks or entering the railway yard is a crime. And yet, according to Baig, people just don’t listen.
“People don’t bother being careful, even when the bell rings, indicating an oncoming train,” he says. “If we start registering FIRs according to the law, the jails will be full of errant people and there will be no place to accommodate them all.”
Referring to Drigh Road station, Baig says although there are two overhead pedestrian bridges, people hardly ever use them. “Our nation is always in search of shortcuts,” he says exasperatedly. “They are always in a hurry, often unnecessarily so.”
This negligence, it seems, is ingrained in the psyche, as similar accidents throughout the country illustrate.
A prime example of the negligence that Baig mentions occurred a couple of weeks ago in Sheikhupura, when a motorcycle rickshaw carrying 14 collided with a train. Around 14 people died.
“The loss of 14 lives simply because of the rickshaw driver’s negligence is a tragedy,” said Khawaja Saad Rafique, the federal minister for Pakistan Railways, as he spoke at a press conference in Lahore.
Rafique added that the responsibility to close down unmanned railway crossings lies with the government – federal and provincial.
In Balochistan, too, these deaths occur, although less than Karachi. However, according to Muhammad Kashif, Balochistan’s public relations officer for Pakistan Railways, this is simply because of the comparatively small population size. “People don’t live around train stations, as there are no public places around them,” he explains. “Also, Quetta is a small city when compared to Karachi.”
Making it stop
In early 2007, the then minister for railways, Shekih Rashid Ahmed, had announced the creation of a boundary wall for the tracks from Karachi’s Landhi area to Cantt station. However, nothing has been done so far.
“People violate laws, there are laws against crossing tracks,” says Dildar Hussain, Pakistan Railways’ spokesman in Lahore. “However, there is no implementation. No one is punished. This needs to be done to keep people from remaining careless.”
Baig, too, agrees. Although he believes that to curtail train accidents, the provincial government should build overhead bridges, he also thinks that getting people to obey the law is the key.
“Everyone needs to obey laws,” he says. “We need to act as responsible people. Knowledge is life, and ignorance is death.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2013.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ