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Suresh Prabhu offers to quit, but Modi says ‘wait’

Suresh Prabhu

Suresh Prabhu  

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu offered his resignation on Wednesday owning “full moral responsibility” for recent train accidents, even as Air India Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) Ashwani Lohani became the new Railway Board Chairman in place of A.K. Mital.

“I am extremely pained by the unfortunate accidents, injuries to passengers and loss of precious lives. It has caused me deep anguish. I met Prime Minister Narendra Modi taking full moral responsibility. Honourable PM has asked me to wait,” Mr. Prabhu said in a series of tweets, indicating his resignation is yet to be accepted by the Prime Minister.

 

Speculation on reshuffle

Mr. Prabhu’s offer to resign heightened speculation about a possible Cabinet reshuffle. The Prime Minister will take a call on Mr. Prabhu, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told reporters.

Sources said Mr. Prabhu took the decision to resign early on Wednesday after hearing about the train derailment in Auraiya district of Uttar Pradesh that injured around 100 passengers after an unauthorised dumper crossed the railway fence and hit the Delhi-bound Kaifiyat Express.

Mr. Prabhu took charge as the Railway Minister in November 2014.

His tenure has been marred by serious train accidents including the derailment of the Indore-Rajendranagar Express near Kanpur in November last year that claimed 152 lives.

In 2016-17, the proportion of derailments to total train accidents rose to around 77% from 61% in the previous year even as total serious accidents declined from 107 to 104. “In less than three years as Minister, I have devoted my blood and sweat for the betterment of the Railways. Under (the) leadership of the PM, tried to overcome decades of neglect through systemic reforms in all areas leading to unprecedented investment and milestones”, he stated.

Sources said Mr. Prabhu discussed his resignation with Mr. Modi over phone early on Wednesday. “He was told to attend the Cabinet meeting. He was deeply upset with the recent train accidents and said he wants to take responsibility. He left town immediately after attending the meeting,” a Railway Ministry official said.

Mr. Prabhu’s announcement came a day after Principal Secretary-level officer and Railway Board Chairman Mital tendered his resignation taking moral responsibility for the Puri-Haridwar Utkal Express derailment near Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh on Saturday evening that killed at least 21 people and injured over 80 others.

Mr. Mital, who was the first Railway Board Chairman to be re-appointed for two years in July last year, resigned after initial investigations suggested major lapses in the track maintenance work.

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Printable version | Aug 10, 2020 9:24:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/suresh-prabhu-offers-to-resign-over-up-train-accidents/article19545165.ece

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