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The Cable

In Throes of Cash Crisis, India Must Deal With Wreckage of Train Crash

India was already dealing with cash crisis chaos. Then it suffered its deadliest train crash in years.


The Indore-Patna Express came off the rails near the city of Kanpur, India, at 3 a.m. local time Sunday. On Monday, with the death toll at 146 and over 200 injured, rescue workers called off the search for survivors.

Roughly 15,000 people in India are killed annually in train crashes, according to a report issued in 2012, but this crash was, per the BBC, the deadliest in 14 years. The Indian Express has reported that the carriages were outdated. Last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he would invest $137 billion over five years to modernize India’s out of date, but much used, railway system. And as Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu tweeted that “strictest possible action will be taken against those who could be responsible for accident,” Modi reportedly promised compensation to both those injured in the crash and to the relatives of its victims.

But it is unclear how Modi will make good on any of these promises, given that he recently sparked a cash crisis across India. Two weeks ago, in an effort to tackle India’s corruption, Modi decided to get rid of “black money” by banning 500 and 1000 rupee notes — and thereby rendering illegal 85 percent of currency in circulation. The government did not print new notes or tweak ATMs ahead of time, because the move was intended to take the public by surprise.

And, indeed, it was a surprise — one that resulted in broken ATM machines, long lines outside of banks, and a deleterious effect on the economy’s informal sector and the national economy in general. Indians are still struggling to get the new, sanctioned bills. And while the move did hurt those sitting on “black money,” so, too, has it thrown farmers, workers, drivers, and small business owners into crisis.

The country’s Supreme Court has warned the government there could be riots if it does not find a way to provide some relief to its people — a task that was made still more difficult when the Indore-Patna Express came off its tracks.

Photo credit: SANJAY KANOJIA/AFP/Getty Images

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