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Railway red-tapism led to Telangana train-bus tragedy

Hyderabad, July 26 (): The Railway spent Rs 35 lakh building a room for a gateman at the unmanned Masaipet railway crossing but did not get permission to install a gate, which cost the lives of 16 schoolchildren.

South-Central railway received several representations from the civic body, District Collector, village head and school authorities that the railway crossing needed a gate. Railway Prinicipal engineer who inspected the site too approved it and gave it a ‘A’ ‘classification in view of road traffic at the  crossing. Railway constructed a gateman’s room with tiles and fences around and a mechanism to operate the gate. When it came to installing the gate, the sanctions got stuck. At the time of writing this report, 20 children are critical.

The Railways conducted a survey of 200 level crossings under its control and in 2012 identified Masaipet termed as UMLC No. 233 gate in the list to be converted into a manned one. The report said that two wheelers were the main traffic and most of it were for ferrying children across to schools.

The government school has 300 students. The Railways allotted Rs 85 lakh for the gate. In December 2012, the work began. Five months back, a freshly tiled gateman’s cabin, levers to operate the gate and a new tarred road were in place. All it needed was electricity, water to the cabin and communication system to nearby railway station and above all the gate.

As the physical construction and ground work was over, the next stage is to hire three men to man the gate and then erect the gate. The next stage of allocation of funds was not sanctioned.

Now after the tragedy, the Railways is working overtime to put up the gate as red tapes seem to have been buried. The children are students belonging to Kakatiya group; the school they studied in is a franchise and so the group has disowned any responsibility.

The Group has 49 schools in AP;  39 of them are franchisees while the rest of them are operating in Hyderabad. Eyewitnesses say that the driver overtook other waiting vehicles to beat the oncoming train. The driver was a standby and he was already late and so he was in a hurry to reach the school before the gates closed.