Supreme Court order on oxygen cylinders leaves Southern Railway gasping

SC wants life-saving devices in all long-distance trains, but authorities fear they are inflammable and could put lives of passengers at risk.

Published: 24th October 2017 01:41 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th October 2017 09:07 AM   |  A+A-

Officials say medical kits are already available in Shatabdi trains. (File photo)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: At a time when Southern Railways is unable to provide emergency medical assistance centres at major A-grade stations in Tamil Nadu, the Supreme Court order to provide oxygen cylinders in all the trains for ailing passengers has raised several questions among the railway officials.

They are worried about the feasibility of its implementation. Officials from operations, mechanical and electrical engineering wings of Southern Railway who interacted with Express felt that setting up medical emergency centres at all major stations would be more feasible than carrying oxygen cylinders in all trains.
Given the existing structure of Indian trains, carrying oxygen cylinders in long distance trains would pose a huge risk, said a railway official.

“Until three years ago, all the second class AC coaches had curtains covering every single berth. After a fire accident took place in one of the AC coaches, the curtains were removed across the country. The railway has since then decided not to allow any inflammable material including oxygen cylinders in trains. Now, the board has to issue revised orders,” said an official. Officials said that though oxygen cylinders could be stored in SLR brake vans or in any one of the coaches, they questioned the rationale behind forcing the operation employees to engage in paramedical works.

“According to the order, in case of emergencies, the train superintendent or guard has to carry the cylinder to passenger’s compartment, which would disrupt  railway operations. Even then, if any infection happens to passengers due to unsterilised masks or any other reasons, railway staff  will be made accountable, which is unacceptable. Railway employees cannot be asked to perform duties of paramedical staff without guidance of a doctor,” added official.

Officials also pointed out that first aid medical kits containing essential drugs and dressing materials, wide range of medicines and disposable medical material have been provided with the train superintendents of Rajdhani and Shatabdi Express trains and guards of other nominated trains. However, the railway passengers association had urged Railways to provide emergency medical centres at all major stations.

T Mohammed Mubeen, member of Divisional Rail User’s Consultative Committee (DRUCC), Chennai division, welcomed the Supreme Court order saying elderly passengers who suffer from cardiac and respiratory problems certainly need immediate medical care during long journeys. 

Sometimes, many develop food poisoning too. “Railways should try to provide oxygen cylinders at all trains or should set up a medical emergency booth with ambulance and paramedical staff at all major stations,” he urged.

It may be recalled that in September 2017, a 55-year-old woman died on her way to Jodhpur from Dhanbad, allegedly due to delay in medical support. Hearing the matter, the Rajasthan High Court directed Railways officials to provide a team of one medical officer, a nurse and attendant in all the long-distance trains. Railways had filed an appeal against the order in Supreme Court, which later ordered the organisation to provide oxygen cylinders in all the trains.

Except major stations such as Chennai Central, Egmore, Tambaram, Madurai, Kumbakonam, Tiruchy, Tirunelveli, Coimbatore, Karur, Salem, Erode and Katpadi, many A-grade railway stations in Tamil Nadu have no emergency medical centre.


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