Congress demands Rail Minister’s resignation, alleges Centre prioritised PR of Vande Bharat trains over rail safety

Randeep Surjewala questioned the implementation of the anti-collision device, Kavach, only on 2% of the rail routes

June 04, 2023 04:37 pm | Updated June 05, 2023 05:19 pm IST - New Delhi

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge slammed the BJP-led Centre for not implementing the suggestions and reducing in allocation for track renewals. File

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge slammed the BJP-led Centre for not implementing the suggestions and reducing in allocation for track renewals. File | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

After holding off questions on the Balasore train accident for a day, the Congress on Sunday demanded the resignation of Ashwini Vaishnaw and asked if the Narendra Modi government ‘prioritised’ publicity of Vande Bharat trains over rail safety.

The party alleged that the Rail Minister’s “PR gimmicks” overshadowed the “serious deficiencies, criminal negligence and complete disregard for safety and security of Indian Railways”.

An infographic depicting how the Odisha train crash may have happened based on the preliminary probe by Indian Railway Ministry.

An infographic depicting how the Odisha train crash may have happened based on the preliminary probe by Indian Railway Ministry.

Odisha rail accident live updates- June 04

Separately, Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge sent a two member team, headed by Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, who had earlier served as a minister of state Railways, to the accident site for an assessment of the situation on the ground.

Addressing a press conference at All India Congress Committee (AICC) headquarters, Congress’ Rajya Sabha member Shaktisinh Gohil and All India Congress Committee’s publicity and media department head Pawan Khera said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should accept part of the responsibility of the “mess” that his government has created in the Indian Railways.

The Odisha rail tragedy was a “man-made devastation caused by utter negligence, serious lapses in the system, incompetence, and a narcissistic sense of know-it-all attitude of the Modi government,”they said.

Referring to the Mr. Modi’s statement that the guilty would be punished, Mr. Khera said a beginning must be made with the Railway Minister. “Unequivocally and unambiguously we demand the resignation of the Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw. Nothing short of it,” he said.

“PM Modi, himself is responsible for a green-flagging spree of Vande Bharat Express trains. He himself is responsible for creating this ‘all is well’ facade in the Indian Railways, even as crucial, sensitive, and critical infrastructure of the Indian Railway languishes in neglect,”Mr. Gohil and Mr. Khera said in their statement.

Also read: Probe to examine whether the Coromandel Express derailed or switched tracks

“We demand that despite multiple warnings by the CAG, Parliamentary Standing Committees, and experts – why did the Modi government not spend on sprucing up Railway Safety? Who is responsible for the deadliest rail tragedy in independent India?”they asked.

The Congress leader also questioned the government on on the implementation of the much-hyped Kavach anti-collision system nationwide, filling up three lakh plus vacancies in the Railways and the need to put more funds in the Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh (RRSK).

Posing several pointed questions on Twitter, party general secretary Randeep Surjewala said that on 9th February this year, the Chief Operating Manager of South Western Railway Zone had written on the failure of the Signalling System by pointing out “serious flaws in the system where the route of dispatch gets altered after a train starts on signals with correct appearance of route in the SMS panel. This contravenes the essence and basic principles of interlocking.”

“He also warned that if the signal maintenance system was not monitored and corrected immediately, it could lead to “re-occurrence and serious accidents”. Why was Rail Minister and Railway Ministry immune or ignorant or negligent?”asked Mr. Surjewala, adding why recent incidents of derailment of goods train and death of loco pilots didn’t raise an alarm.

Also read: Howrah-Chennai line has no Kavach system yet

He also said only 1450 kms or 2% of a total rail network of 68,000 kms have Kavach or the ant-collision device.

Alleging that the Rail Minister was too pre-occupied with making the PM launch Vande Bharat trains and tweeted photos of refurbished railway stations rather than paying attention to passenger safety(tweeting their pictures), he said,“Is this the reason why Railway Minister largely skipped the presentation on Railway Safety on 2nd June, 2023 in the Chintan Shivir (hours before the #OdishaTrainAccident ) and concentrated on launch of Vande Bharat Trains and increased revenues?”

Party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, on Twitter, asked “who is responsible for ignoring the CAG and the Parliamentary Standing Committee reports on rail safety,” while Congress communication chief Jairam Ramesh alleged that railway safety had been compromised in the “PR campaign” of the Prime Minister and the Railway Minister.

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