Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge on Monday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the Odisha railway tragedy, saying “all the empty safety claims” of Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw have now been “exposed” and the government must bring to light the real reasons that caused this grave accident.
In his letter to Modi, Kharge hit out at the Railway Minister for seeking a CBI probe, saying the law enforcement agency is meant to investigate crimes, not railway accidents. “The people in charge your goodself and Railway Minister Vaishnaw do not want to admit that there are problems,” the Congress chief said.
“The Railway Minister claims to have already found a root cause, but yet has requested the CBI to investigate. The CBI is meant to investigate crimes, not railway accidents. The CBI, or any other law enforcement agency, cannot fix accountability for technical, institutional and political failures,” Kharge argued.
In addition, they lack the technical expertise in railway safety, signalling, and maintenance practices, he said.
There is serious concern among the common passengers about this deterioration in safety of Railways, the Congress chief claimed. “Therefore, it is incumbent upon the government to ascertain and bring to light the real reasons that caused this grave accident,” he said.
The crash involving Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express and Shalimar-Chennai Central Coromandel Express, which were carrying around 2,500 passengers, and a goods train on Friday has left 275 people dead and over 1,100 injured.
Kharge said the latest audit report of CAG makes a special mention of how between 2017-18 and 2020-21, about seven out of 10 train accidents happened due to derailment.
“But this was erroneously ignored. Between 2017 and 2021, there was zero testing of Rail and Weld (track maintenance) for safety in East Coast Railways. Why were these grave red flags ignored?” he said.
In his letter, Kharge said the devastating train accident in Balasore, Odisha, one of the worst in Indian history, has shocked the nation. “The country stands united in this hour of grief. However the loss of so many precious lives has shaken the conscience of every Indian. The loss of these lives is irreparable and no amount of monetary compensation or words of condolence can make up for this grave tragedy,” he said.
Despite all the revolutionary strides in the field of transportation, the Indian Railways is still a lifeline for every common Indian, he said.
It isn’t just the most reliable but also the most economical mode of transport and it’s remarkable how the railways transport passengers that equal the whole population of Australia every single day, he noted.
“But I say with remorse that instead of focusing on strengthening the railways at the basic level, only superficial touch-up is being done to stay in news. Instead of making the railways more effective, more advanced, and more efficient, it is instead being meted out step-motherly treatment,” he said.
Meanwhile, consistently flawed decision making has made travelling by rail unsafe and has in turn compounded the problems of our people, Kharge alleged.
In related news, just before the shock of the triple-train tragedy wore off, another goods train went off track in the Bargarh area of Western Odisha on Monday. No casualties have been reported in the mishap that happened nearly 500 kilometres from Friday’s crash site, reported ANI.
However, the Indian Railways have claimed that the train did not belong to it and was instead owned by a private company.