New Delhi, June 2 : After the tragic death of 13 schoolchildren at an unmanned railway crossing in Uttar Pradesh, the Railways has decided to hire retired railwaymen to man all such vulnerable crossings and has set up a committee to expedite the process.
Thirteen schoolchildren were killed and eight njured when a speeding passenger train crashed into a van at an unmanned railway crossing in Uttar Pradesh's Kushinagar district last month.
The impact of the collision was so severe that the van, carrying 20 students of Divine Mission School, was crushed instantly and many children died on the spot.
There are 5,792 unmanned level crossings across the country, of which 3,479 are on the broad gauge (BG) section.
Gujarat has maximum unmanned level crossings (1,700) followed by Uttar Pradesh (912), Bihar (742), Rajasthan (464) West Bengal (314) and Madhya Pradesh (255).
The Railways' first priority is to eliminate all the 3,479 unmanned level crossings in the BG section on an urgent basis to prevent a repeat of a Kushinagar like mishap.
However, there are issues like land acquisition with the state governments affecting the pace of work for elimination of level crossings.
"It has been decided to man all the unmanned level crossings till those on the BG section are eliminated with the construction of low height subways (LHS), road overbridges (ROBs) and road underbridges (RUBs) as a permanent solution," a senior Railway Ministry official told IANS.
Though the state-run transporters' earlier target was to eliminate all unmanned level crossings by 2020, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal now has advanced the date to 2019-20.
"Since there is a staff crunch, the Railways will deploy retired employees familiar with the job to do the manning at unmanned spots," the official said.
The Railways have formed a separate committee including a senior official at the executive director level to address the issue to achieve the target by expediting the process.
(Arun Kumar Das is a senior Delhi-based journalist.
He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)