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15,000 die each year crossing rail tracks in India

NEW DELHI - About 15,000 people every year die trying to cross the tracks of India’s rail network, a government committee said, calling it a massacre that was being ignored by railway authorities.

The safety panel said new bridges and overpasses were urgently needed, but it noted that previous recommendations to make the railway system safer had been ignored. Its report said railway authorities were unwilling to categorize the deaths of people hit by trains while crossing the tracks as train accidents.

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Most of the deaths occur at unmanned railroad crossings, said the report, released over the weekend. About 6,000 people die on Mumbai’s crowded suburban rail network alone.

Another 1,000 people die when they fall from crowded coaches, when trains collide, or coaches derail, it said.

India’s 40,000 miles of railway track cut through some of the most densely populated cities, flanked by shanty towns, in the nation of 1.2 billion.

Railway specialists say stopping pedestrians from crossing the tracks in congested areas would be virtually impossible.

“The situation is exceptionally dangerous in Mumbai, where four or five tracks or more lie parallel, and people living in slums on either side have no choice but to walk across the tracks,’’ said I.M.S. Rana, a railway analyst.

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