In a bid to improve response time after railway accidents, the Bombay High Court on Thursday directed the state government to ensure that Government Railway Police (GRP) personnel is available round-the-clock at railway stations. In the absence of this, the station master should be given the authority to shift an injured to the hospital, the court told the Railways.
While hearing a PIL filed by activist Sameer Zaveri, the HC was informed that during an accident, a police personnel has to be present before the injured can be shifted to a hospital.
Referring to an accident that took place on November 12, 2014, when the patient died on the way to the hospital, Justices A S Oka and A K Menon said: “This incident shows that there was fatal delay in shifting the injured to hospital as the GRP was not available. The state government should ensure that police personnel are available around-the-clock at railway stations. We also direct the railways to give authority to the station master to immediately shift the injured to the hospital so that the process is not delayed.” The state government has been asked to file an affidavit in this regard.
According to the Wadala police, after the November 12 accident, no first aid was given to the victim. The station master of Sandhurst Road did not provide an ambulance, police said. The accident took place around 1.30 pm but he was taken to the hospital at 2.20 pm. The passenger fell off a running train.
Meanwhile, the affidavit filed by the station master of Sandhurst station, revealed that the GRP personnel were not available and the patient had to be taken in a train to St George Hospital as the station master felt that an ambulance might take longer. The petitioner also informed the court of another “serious accident” which took place at Ulhasnagar on January 12, 2015.
The HC had also appointed court commissioners to visit stations and see whether or not ambulances were available at 46 stations, as specified by the state.
“The court commissioners who visited some stations and noted lack or absence of facilities in many instances. Instead of issuing showcause notice against the contractor appointed by the state government for providing ambulance services, the state had relied on a report filed by the contractor while saying the report by the court appointed commissioners is incorrect. This is an adversarial stand,” said the court.
Later, the state withdrew its affidavit and said it did not dispute the ‘correctness’ of the report submitted by officers of the court. The court commissioners have been asked to continue with their work till further orders.
The report submitted by the court commissioners shows that, on some occasions, facilities such as ambulances were not found or doctors and drivers were not available. For instance, during evening time, when the team visited Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, no ambulance was found there. Similarly, no ambulance was found in the morning and evening rush hour at Lower Parel railway station.
The report said there were serious lapses on the part of the service provider. “At Mahalaxmi station, the ambulance driver said that the vehicle was not in working condition for the past three days. He did not know the whereabouts of the doctor and the ambulance itself was parked four km from the station,” the report reads.
The court pointed at photos of Mira Road and said it showed that the ambulance was surrounded by hawkers. “In such a scenario, it will be impossible for the ambulance to move and take the injured person to an hospital,” the court remarked.
The court commissioners’ report also mentioned that one of the doctors were asked to identify equipment in the ambulance and he was unable to do so.
According to information provided under RTI Act, in 2014 in western railways there were 2,475 accidents in which 1,200 people lost their lives. Similarly there were 3,259 accidents in Central Railways in which 1,679 died while 473 people died in accidents on Harbour Railway.