Lok Sabha

August 11, 2014

Aparupa Poddar speaks on the Railway (Amendment) Bill, 2014 | Transcript

Thank you, Sir, for allowing me to speak in this august House. I thank my hon. Chief Minister, Ms Mamata Banerjee and the people of Bengal, who have voted and sent 34 MPs from Bengal.

I rise to speak on the Railway Amendment Bill. The Bill adds a new section 124 (b) to the Railway Act, 1989 to empower the Railways to deny compensation claims if it feels that the victim has fallen down from the train due to his/her own fault. The Ministry has also sought to make the Zonal Railways, in whose jurisdiction an accident takes place, a party to claim so that the authenticity of the claim can be ascertained.

Now, Sir, I would like to say accidental deaths due to falling from trains are not only due to the negligence of passengers. Most of the passengers who die due to accidental falling from trains are economically poor people who cannot avail reservation in upper class facilities and travel in ordinary second class compartments where number of passengers exceeds the number of seats. Hence passengers near the gates accidentally fall from the train. Thus, compensation in such cases of accidental falling should be considered, I urge the Railway Minister.

It would be practically impossible to prove that accidental falling is due to negligence of the passenger and not the Railway. Hence, I propose such cases should be considered sympathetically and the propose Amendment should include this part of the compensation process. The proposed amendment should include the time frame within which claims of compensation will be settled by Railways. Generally the enquiry to determine the cause of negligence is made by Railways. I propose that the ‘Enquiry Committee’ to determine the case of negligence should include representatives from the passengers’/Railway Users’ body. This will ensure transparency and timely compensation, Sir.

The rationale behind the Amendment is that the Railway finds that 98% of the accidents that reach the Claim Tribunal are due to accidental falling. The number has risen from 136 in 1995 to 8175 in 2011 as mentioned by the Minister. The average annual payment of such claims has been above Rs 134 crore, rising from Rs 26 lakh in 1994-95. The Railway feels that there is an organized racket and they have brought the Bill to prevent malpractice.

I feel the bill is anti-poor people. The Railways officers have been trying to bring the Bill since 2008, but in 2009 former Railway Minister, Mamata Banerjee, felt the Bill was against poor people. So the Amendment will make it more difficult for the poor people who are genuine victims of the accidental falling from trains. Presently a victim or surviving relatives can register a claim’s case at the place where tickets were purchased as well as at final destination. This should not be changed. The final compensation amount should be determined keeping in view the economic condition, asset liabilities and earning capacity of the affected passenger. The corruption is in railway bureaucracy and law will only change it. Railway should ensure that all those poor people suffering from Railway accidents are compensated adequately.

Thank you.