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Do Railway Tracks Serve the Public Good?

Human anxiety and excitement produces conflict between public and private spaces.

Responses to railway accidents very often enter into what could be seen as the slippery domain of the counterfactual. Not surprisingly, the counterfactual necessarily involves the blame game. Thus, in the context of the recent railway tragedy near Amritsar on 19 October that claimed 60 lives, such a blame game was quite prominently indulged in by some interested parties. There were a number of assumptions and statements about what could have been done to avert the tragedy. These ranged from asserting that if the motorman had slowed down or the railway police had been more vigilant or conversely, if the Dussehra celebration enthusiasts had avoided climbing on to the railway tracks, the tragedy could have been avoided. The blame game reached an absurd level when there were obser­vations that if the people assembled at the celebrations had ­refrained from taking “selfies” on the track, the deaths would not have occurred. It was also pointed out that if persons belonging to a particular political party had not gone to the site to attend the celebrations, the circumstances would have been different.

The counterfactual provides the ground for some people to fix responsibility on others while at the same time escaping from any responsibility themselves. This blame game that is played in the name of responsibility is, of course, not without political motivation.

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Updated On : 30th Oct, 2018


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