India woke up with profoundly saddening news of a horrific accident between a school van and train at an unmanned crossing in Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh. As per news reports the van was carrying more than 20 children, and out of them 14 are dead, and several other injured kids are critically injured and are undergoing treatment at the hospital. As expected the condolences and promises by authorities poured in support of victims and their families. But can these kinds of accidents be avoided? The answer is yes, it is just that railways should not forget the promise of eradicating the unmanned level crossings in India.

There are quick promises of monitory support made by UP CM Yogi Adityanath, and Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said “I have asked senior officials to conduct an inquiry into the incident. Railways will provide an ex-gratia amount of Rs 2 lakh each to families of the deceased”. PM Narendra Modi too expressed his dismay stating -

 I am extremely saddened on hearing about the death of 11 school students in a collision between a school van and a train in Uttar Pradesh's #Kushinagar . UP government and railway dept will take appropriate action. - PM Narendra Modi.

We appreciate this, and that should be the case.

No monitory help can bring back the departed young souls! We should be more clear in our priorities, in a country like India which is touted to be one of the fastest growing economies such accidents due to lack of infrastructure is immensely saddening. As per the data, India has more than 30,000 level-crossings and out of these more than 11,000 are unmanned. Indian railways do know the consequences of these unmanned railway crossings. As per reports in 2017, there were 40 deaths from 20 incidents reported due to accidents at unmanned level crossings. With this accident at Kushinagar, this year’s toll is set to soar. But what comes as more disheartening that the promises made by Railway Ministry seem to be just promises and not the reality!

In 2017, the Railway Minister said in an event at IIM Calcutta that by 2018 all unmanned crossings will be eliminated! He said the target of removing all unmanned level crossings could be achieved within a year, instead of the initial goal of doing it in three years. He was quoted "Initially, the Railways had a target of removing all unmanned crossings in three years. But, I told them, why not do it within a year," and later took on tweeter to reassure us “Govt. to work in mission mode to eliminate unmanned railway crossings within one year, ensuring the safety of passengers.”

But was it just a promise? Yes the following tweet shows Rs. 700cr is allocated in 2018-19 for Focus on the elimination of unmanned level crossings. So why was the above promise of getting all the unmanned level crossings eliminated was made?

After the accident, Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani said " Basically, people have to be careful while crossing rail tracks, there is no substitute for that. We can't take any step that is full proof against negligence", forgetting completely about the solution - eradicate unmanned railway crossings.

Wondering are are we not prioritising the efforts and allocating the budgets which can save lives and can show development on the ground rather than just seeing these hundreds of crores budget only on tweets and WhatsApp forwards? We understand it takes time to move forces on the ground and the deadlines we take are tight, but promises are meant to be met.

(The opinions expressed in the above article are of the author and do not reflect the stand or position of LatestLY.)

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Apr 26, 2018 11:18 AM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website