Friday, May 28, 2010

How Maoist derailed the train

The accident caused by Maoists on a railway track in West Bengal on Friday morning, which killed at least 100 people, has raised questions about the lack of security on board long-distance trains in India.

During preliminary investigations, railway authorities found that the fish plates on the track had been taken off in order to derail the train. A fish plate forms a crucial link on a railway track as it is the metal bar that holds the tracks together.

The fish plate is made out of nickel silver and it helps maintain the alignment and electrical continuity on the track. The Maoists removed the fishplates to de-link the tracks, which caused the train to lose its balance and get derailed.

Authorities point out that it is not too difficult to take out a fish plate, as it is fixed to the track with bolts, which can be unscrewed in a matter of minutes with the right equipment. The fishplates are placed at regular intervals of the track and it is difficult to monitor each and every one of the numerous fishplates to spot a case of tampering, say authorities.

The Railway Protection Force, set up on the lines of the Central Reserve Police Force, has been entrusted the task of providing security and taking care of law and order on India's lifeline. The RPF is also supposed to guard the tracks, though sources in the force admit that it is difficult to provide security all the time.

"There is a need for specific intelligence and without that, we are helpless," said the source, adding that the RPF also has to deal with a shortage in staff. .

Given the extensive railway network across India, monitoring every part of it is extremely tough, said the source.

The RPF usually focuses on a specific area and needs actionable intelligence to do that, according to authorities.

According to intelligence officials, locals in Naxal-hit areas can provide valuable inputs, ut are reluctant to do so. "There is a list of suspects and we keep a track on such persons. Their movements can be known only with the help of local support. Despite so many inhuman attacks, locals do not share information easily. There is a need to educate these perople about the ill effects of Naxalism. Once the locals turn against the Naxals, it will be easy to address the problem," said an IB official.

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