The real capability of an organization is invariably tested by the quality of its response to a crisis. Success of rescue operations in case of railway accidents depends upon four things. Firstly, it depends upon the spontaneous reaction of men available on the train at the time of the accident. Secondly, it depends upon contributions made in rescue and relief work by men and material available locally in nearby areas of the accident site. Thirdly, it depends upon availability of adequate resources with the DM team, both in terms of men and materials. Lastly, it depends upon extensive teamwork and co-ordinated efforts of various departments. The extent to which these various agencies interact, co-operate and ultimately co-ordinate with one another determines the level of success in all such cases.
Fortunately or unfortunately, over the past 9 years, I have had the privilege of a ringside view of 3 worst-ever accidents on IR. In August 1995, as CPTM/G, Northern Railway, I functioned as Chief Emergency Officer in Baroda House Emergency Control during the Ferozabad accident. Subsequently, during 5 years as ED/Safety, Railway Board, I and my 2 Directors (S/Shri Sharat Sharma and H. D. Gujrati) were closely involved with monitoring and co-ordination of rescue and relief operations in connection with Gaisal (1998) and Khanna (1999) accidents. Apart from these 3 major disasters, there were number of comparatively smaller ones involving casualties, dealing with each of which was a lesson by itself.
During these accidents it was the responsibility of Safety Directorate to keep a tab on progress of rescue and relief operations on hourly basis, maintain a logbook of events as and when they occurred, monitor developments at accident site, remain in touch with Emergency Control at both Hdqrts. and Division, arrange inter-Zonal assistance, liaison with State Govts., co-ordinate with Defence and Para-Military establishments, deal with the Press and Electronic Media; and last but not the least Ministry and Parliament. It was multi-tasking at its best. After an accident was finally over, it was generally possible to conclude as to how the DM System had fared. In each case we more or less knew as to what had gone right and what had gone wrong, what should have been done, what could have been avoided, what was not done and why, and finally, where or at what level co-ordination had failed.
It was enlightening to scrutinize the working of railway personnel at an accident site and analyze the performance of Zonal DM machinery. These were invaluable lessons that no amount of classroom lectures or theories in Accident Manual could teach. The varied experience that we underwent, the information we picked up, innovative ideas people implemented at accident sites, suggestions we gave and they improvised upon, the insight we acquired into the mindset of rescue workers, the anguish, sorrow and utter helplessness of relatives of dead & injured, were beyond comprehension. Lessons we learnt and the wisdom we gained as a result of all this went into further increasing our understanding and depth of knowledge of the subject.
Subsequently, I have often been asked by friends and well wishers, as to why I have desisted from writing an authoritative DM Manual, given the wide experience I have had on the subject. While the idea of writing such a treatise some day had always been at the back of my mind, day to day fire fighting generally resulted in paucity of time to undertake the assignment.
The present Zonal DM Plan of NCR is a culmination of all this. It is the sum total of our combined experience of 16 years in Safety, sufficiently long time one would say, considering that it is a thankless job. What follows is the outcome of our own experience as also wisdom gleaned from serving and retired railwaymen with whom we had the privilege of interacting, regarding their experiences at various accident sites.
The DM Plan enunciated in this document aims to :
(i)Prevent all avoidable loss of lives.
(ii)Expedite Rescue, Relief and Rehabilitation.
(iii)Minimize human agony due to accident.
(iv)Protect Railways property and that of its users.
(v)Preserve clues and evidence.
(vi)Speed up restoration of traffic.
(vii)Ensure post accident care of injured passengers and their relatives.
Data Bank of various non railway resources has been included in the respective Divisional DM Plans of Allahabad, Jhansi and Agra Divisions. Divisional DM Plans have already been circulated and hence these Data Banks are not being repeated in the Zonal DM Plan. Divisional DM Plans of Allahabad, Jhansi and Agra divisions as also NCRs Zonal DM Plan will be put on NCRs Web Site (www.ncr.indianrailways.gov.in) in the near future.
If NCRs Zonal DM Plan helps in saving even one extra precious life at an accident site, or helps in wiping away tears from the eyes of a widow or an orphan, I would consider my efforts to have been well worth it.
CHIEF SAFETY OFFICER