Rats behind Bangalore-Nanded Express blaze?

Visakhapatnam (VSKP): Four days after the train blaze in Anantapur district, that claimed 26 lives, railway authorities are still sticking to their short circuit theory despite their inability to ascertain the actual reason that sparked off the blaze. Experts however point out that this short circuit could well be due to the rodent menace which has grown into unmanageable proportions.

According to experts, mice chew the protective rubber insulation off the electricity wires and studies also reveal that rodents are behind nearly 5-6% of power outages and short circuits.

Andhra University professor GVKR Sastry, who has 35 years of experience in teaching and research in the field of electrical engineering, explained the role rodents play in triggering short circuits either by chewing the cables or by coming in contact with `positive’ and `negative’ nodes or terminals.

A short circuit is an abnormal connection between two nodes of an electric circuit intended to be at different voltages. “If a rodent is stuck between the two nodes, the connection between the nodes of the circuit lead to an abnormal stage, causing circuit damage, overheating, fire or explosion,” Prof Sastry explained.

“There is are possibilities of rodents triggering short circuits. It happens often. However, I can’t ascertain the reasons behind the Bangalore-Nanded Express fire without examining the incident spot,” Sastry concluded.

Agreeing with Prof Sastry, Anil Kumar, divisional railway manager, Waltair Division of East Coast Railway (ECoR), said that railway officers concerned currently suspect that the fire may have been triggered by a short circuit. “I agree that rodents could also be one of the reasons behind short circuits,” Anil Kumar told.

Visakhapatnam Railway Zone Sadana Samiti convener JV Satyanarayana Murthy said, “In my experience with the Railways, I have found a number of rodents or mice crawling in the AC coaches of trains, particularly in Garibrath Express that is a fully-AC daily train plying between Visakhapatnam and Secunderabad. This theory was also proved right when a fire mishap took place in my car after rats chewed off some wires. The privatization of maintenance works of the coaches has led to the poor condition of the coaches and the rising number of rodents.”

When contacted, ECoR chief public relation officer JP Mishra said: “We are keeping a strict watch on complaints from passengers on rodents and pests. The root cause lies in the maintenance and sanitation at the railway station and proper cleaning of the coaches, especially the pantry cars. If there are any complaints they will tighten the mechanism and continue the strict vigil.”

According to railway officials, pest control works for Vizag railway station were awarded to a private agency, Hughes and Hughes Chem Ltd (HHCL) on September 2011 for a period of three years till September 2014 at a cost of Rs 39 lakh. A total of 615 coaches at Vizag station alone, including 50 air-conditioned and 565 non-AC coaches are being maintained by HHCL periodically. While AC and pantry cars are cleaned and pest control undertaken every 15 days, for non-AC.