This morning news brought the tragic incidents of  train accidents in North India at three different places with loss of life and damage to equipments . The reason – heavy fog and cold weather may have caused  the electricity grid to fail . A classic case of technology trap without redundancy built into the system  or human interface arrangements where available not applied in time to prevent such accidents.

In a high tech environment  now operating in many cases , where the safety of traveling  public is involved  , it is essential that the authorities have necessary contingency plans in place  and adequate monitoring mechanism to change over the  controls well rehearsed  and kept at a readiness state all the time.

I am reminded of an incident during the 80’s when we were carrying out the user and technical evaluation trials of the  now famous Bofors gun  in the mountains near the Chinese border. The Bofors team from Sweden gave us an impressive display of its manoueverability and the functioning of the APU [auxiliary propulsion system] which can move the gun from traveling to firing position and vice versa in a few seconds.The Army Commander who was present at the scene asked the trial team to show him how the gun can be moved manually by the crew in case of a break down of the APU and other hydraulic systems. The gun crew really had to sweat it out and still the gun could not be moved . A very possible scene in a war situation!!. The Commander was not impressed and he wanted this constraint to be recorded in the trial report .  He gave all of us present a great insight into the working of high tech systems  and the need for redundancies built in for human intervention when everything  else fails.

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