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Report: 15,000 die each year crossing India train tracks

By Moni Basu, CNN
updated 3:31 PM EST, Tue February 21, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 15,000 people are killed trying to cross train tracks every year
  • A safety panel said almost half of the deaths were in Mumbai
  • It said 'no civilized society can accept such massacre'
  • It blamed outdated technology and lack of infrastructure

(CNN) -- Trains are as intrinsic to life for India's billion-plus people as cars for Americans. Think, then, what it means that the Railway Ministry has been accused of ignoring "massacre" on the tracks.

About 15,000 people die each year simply trying to cross India's mammoth network of railway lines, much of it left over from colonial days.

That according to a scathing new safety report that blames the government for a lack of safety on a railway system used by 20 million Indians each day.

Often, vast slums hug tracks and people live lives synchronized with the rhythms and noises of the trains roaring by. They walk the tracks every day as though it were their backyard.

The report by the safety panel, set up in September after a series of rail accidents, said many of the deaths resulted from outdated technology and a lack of infrastructure.

"Reluctance of Indian Railways to own these casualties, which do not fall under the purview of train accidents but are nevertheless accidents on account of trains can by no means be ignored," said the report issued recently by the High Level Safety Review Committee.

"No civilized society can accept such massacre on their railway system," it said.

The panel said 6,000 of the deaths occurred in Mumbai's commuter system alone.

"We feel the grim situation on the Mumbai suburban system has to be tackled on a different war footing," it said.

People are dying, it said, because of unmanned train crossings and a lack of barricades, fences and pedestrian bridges. Or the platforms are too narrow and stations lack facilities such as elevators for the disabled.

Another 1,000 people die because they fall off crammed compartments or in train collisions, the report said.

It said accidents of a minor nature and near misses were not included in the data.

The report made a host of safety improvements and recommended a budget of about $20 billion over the next five years to implement changes.

"The demands on the system are rapidly growing without commensurate investments for upgradation of technology and modernization consistent with modern times," the report said.

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